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The last billionaire 

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The last billionaire 





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THE 

LAST 
BILLIONAIRE 

HENRY FORD 

BY 

WILLIAM C.RICHARDS 




CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS NEW YORK 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS - LTD . LONDON 

1948 

. K. 7TWTCTOT-7 

670! VALUiY KOAO 

CITY, MO. 



COPYRIGHT, 1948, BY 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK 
MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT 
THE PERMISSION OF CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 




The author wishes to express his profound thanks to a host of 
present and former Ford executives and newspapermen who were in 
position to study Mr. Ford at close range and in daily contact and who 
have contributed generously of their memories to this work. 



' I 



'''V.:,* 



"Adventure is the vitaminizing element in histories. ...Its adepts 
are rarely chaste, or merdjul, or even law-abiding at all, and any 
moral peptonizing, or sugaring, ta{es out the interest, with the 

truth, of their lives No, the adventurer is an individualist and 

an egotist, a truant from obligations. His road is solitary, there 
is no room for company on it. What he does, he does for himself. 
His motive may be simple greed. It most often is, or that form of* 
greed we call vanity. . . . But beware of underestimating this 
motive. ...God help the ungreedy-that is, the Australian blacks, 
the poor 'Bushmen of South Africa, those angelic and virtuous 
Caribs, whom Columbus massacred in the earthly paradise of 
Haiti, and all other good primitives who, because they had no 
appetite, never grew" 

Reprinted from Twelve Against the Gods 
by William Bolitho. Copyright, 1929, by 
Simon and Schuster, Inc. 



An Explanation^ 

TO ROSEMARY: 

This book is written primarily for my own pleasure and not to 
shrink or stretch the stature of the late Henry Ford. It is doubtful if a 
single word of mine could add a brick or scratch to the incomparable 
monument he built to mass production. He confused the critics in life; 
there is no reason to suppose he will perplex the historians less, but the 
clay is now theirs. 

This is no bilious expose, no definitive biography, no honeyed 
hymn in his honor, but a series of reminiscences of mine, of men pres 
ently or past members of the Ford hierarchy and of others who knew 
him as a human being who was neither pristine saint nor as black as 
his traducers wanted to make out. 

When I became acquainted with him he was a full-blown per 
sonality and the spotlight had disposed its silver shawl caressingly about 
his shoulders. Consequently I am concerned here with him after he 
became a controversial figure. These chapters have little to say of his 
heritage, his boyhood, his* early struggles. Of such days I have only the 
enfeebled recollections of a corporal's guard of early playmates. I do 
not know if he was a good boy or bad boy, a trial to his folks, the 
despair of a father who preferred he stay on the farm. 

Anyway, there is no intention here of building into significance 
a period when, if he made a screwdriver of his mother's darning needle, 
or kissed the butcher's daughter, or stuffed his blouse into a cap when 
he went swimming, or fixed a watch behind a geography, he only 
did what thousands of other boys did before him and have done since. 

No one but he and Mrs. Ford attended in the kitchen of the home 
oa the night when the first engine coughed for the first time. I was not 
a witness when they barged off to the probable mockery of those at the 



vi AN EXPLANATION 

curb and the derision of those driving horses they met on the way. 
Personally I know only that the scoffers on the sidewalk and those who 
clucked along the roads as the Fords passed and reached for their car 
riage whips to quiet their perpendicular mares, showed up later in many 
an ingle-nook drawing painful comfort from stories they told of how 
near they came to buying stock in Ford's first motorized surrey and 
were deterred not by doubt not at all but by an unlucky lack of 
coppers at the time. 

Completely unkind books were written of him with which I 
totally disagree and I have read a profusion of others which might be 
joined under the fair title The Real Henry Ford y but no one knew the 
entire truth about the motormaker, probably not he himself. 

As a reporter, a little pompous in my nearnesss to the fountain- 
head, I imagined that I was riding some of the clouds with him, but 
they were filmy and insubstantial and my edge always gave way, of 
course, tumbling me back to earth to watch Mr. Ford float majestically 
or awkwardly by, as the case might be. 

It came as a shock at first to discover that when one was in the 
midst of exuberant applause, it was not unusual for Ford to turn his 
back abruptly and drift to the other side of the field and there begin 
the recitation of a sheer nonsense jingle. Thereupon you fell back upon 
your cheering section plank and waited, considerably let down, for him 
to stop making a ninny of himself and return to a clarity within your 
understanding. 

You may remember that it was not long ago, in a time of 
ascending suicides and increasing applecarts, that he contributed to the 
public comfort such remarks as "These are really good times but only a 
few know it" and "The average man won't really do a day's work 
unless he is caught and can't get out of it" and "There's plenty of work 
to do if people will do it." I dumbly did not know what he was talking 
about. Those are the zany things I mean. There are a thousand other 
examples. Ford frequently did not add up. 

Without empire and a billion dollars to validate each whim as 
world-wide news Ford might have died a nobody and been buried 
uncaroled in his cornfield. But in my opinion he would have been 
remembered by those who knew him if he had been a store-keeper, a 
foundry foreman or a mechanic in an obscure shop. People would have 
remembered him for four qualities. One was his belief that there was 



AN EXPLANATION vii 

something holy in work in this he bordered on fanaticism. On camp 
ing trips if he was not cleaning out springs he was chopping wood, and 
if he was not chopping wood he was showing children how an auto 
mobile engine ran. It always seemed a contradiction urging the 
sanctity of work on one hand, and on the other shortening work hours 
and eliminating the drudgery. 

Another characteristic he always expressed by maxim: "It is 
always too soon to quit." 

His very doggedness produced results. A conversation with engi 
neers might go like this: 

"Have you done so and so?" 

"Yes, we have, Mr. Ford." 

"How about this combination?" No, they had not tried that. 
"Well, add that to it and see what you get." 

What engineers discovered sometimes after trying five absolutely 
"crazy" ideas proposed by him was that the sixth might not prove as 
nonsensical as it first sounded. He was always stirring up people to do 
things he did not see clearly himself or that they did not see clearly 
and he did so not because he was sure what the answer was but because 
he was dissatisfied with things as they were. The principal thing was to 
learn by doing. He had an intensely inquisitive mind and the money to 
play with. If an idea did not work, no harm was done. "Let's see if we 
can do it!" 

He had a notion he could build a dam of loose stones if he just 
threw in enough of them, but after hauling a great number of truck 
loads he finally agreed it might not be feasible. Once he staggered a 
county road commission. He urged that a road be paved and the engi 
neers said the existing gravel was not too bad and the laying of con 
crete would cost more than the county could afford at the moment. 

"All you've got to do," he floored the experts, "is to take the 
gravel that's there, run it through a mixer, add cement and make 
concrete." 

He was put out and skeptical when the engineers assured him 
his way was no good and that sand and gravel had to be mixed in 
definite proportions to get a usable dense mass. The clay content by his 
method would have crumbled in no titne. 

"We could do as you say, Mr. Ford," said one commissioner, "but 
Td want to leave the country after we did it." 



viii AN EXPLANATION 

He had the uncluttered imagination of a child and a bit of the 
attitude of a man who had been born at forty and who had said, "Noth 
ing has happened before I arrived all life begins here and now. Other 
men will tell me things which they will claim to be facts, but I must 
not believe them. I will not accept anything as true unless I, myself, 
prove they are true, and that goes for all subjects which these men call 
by such strange names as science, history, organized philanthropy, 
medicine, engineering formulae." School did no injury to his genius, 
someone once said o him, by giving him formulae that- might have 
blocked his original thinking before he could pick the lock. 

The fourth quality was a dynamism that got things done, that 
brought the spark and drive to the thing he set his mind upon. There 
were those who ranked Ford as an engineer not far beyond addition, 
but those about him agreed that when the chips were down he seemed 
to have the answer. On the idea he poured the warming sun of an ex- 
haustless energy. 

The car was really not the billion dollar idea. The billion lay in 
what he brought to it after the first explosion in the first cylinder his 
notorious willingness to scrap, his constant search for the ultimate, the 
gospel of factory asepticism, a burning desire to explore and blaze new 
roads. Gamaliel Bradford struck it years ago in Harper's Magazine, 
when he said, substantially, "It was the infinite care and intelligence in 
detail, the extraordinary organization for efficiency, the economy of 
human effort in every possible way, the saving of time, of steps, of 
strength." 

It has been popular in some quarters to say that Ford was prog 
ress-crazy as the Aztecs a thousand years ago were blood crazy; that 
he made a gargantuan fortune without ever discovering that man works 
for the sake of life; that he would have immolated the entire population 
of the United States rather than let go of the hope of making two tons 
of fabricated steel grow where only one grew before and with the 
Identical manpower; that his ideal man would do the work of the 
world in thirty minutes a day, pressing a button by the side of the bed 
and finding himelf automatically clad, fed, shaved, , exercised and 
amused and put to bed again. 

I do not believe he was the one virgin knight in a world of 
industrial footpads, always battling for the right against leagued con 
temporaries in the hire of Lucifer. He was no unarmed innocent in the 



AN EXPLANATION ix 

rough market-place asking quarter o the burly boys he fought. I am 
sure I do not know, even after periodically reading the space-writers, if 
he belongs in a list of ten all-time immortals. I do not subscribe to 
a carefully nursed idea that he was another lodger on the third floor 
back, carrying a divine visa on a divine mission, and I consider a com 
plete delusion a common belief that when a project went awry and 
repercussions were unpleasant, the responsibility lay not with him but 
with some tricky rascal who pursued a policy which Ford would have 
halted long before had he the least suspicion of what was going on. 
In passing the cemetery Ford would whistle as loudly as anybody, but 
if a ghost jumped out he could run as fast as the next man. 

There always seemed to me a false ring to th*e lyric that work on 
an assembly line was as gay as a winning night at Monte Carlo and I 
never was able to understand how tightening 240 hub caps an hour was 
any less monotonous if a workman got $i a day or $10 for doing it. The 
companion hoax, of course, is that before Ford appeared on the scene 
with conveyor belt and time studies, and succeeded in doing in a minute 
what old-time blacksmiths took a week to do, life was beatific, man did 
not have much to do but play the lyre in the berry patch and cool him 
self with a demijohn, and in the evening everyone wound up fresh as 
a daisy, only waiting the morrow to exultantly repeat the holiday. 

But what happened? We are asked to believe that Ford was the 
base coxswain who chained man to the oar-lock and ran up the stroke 
until when day was gone, employes could only crawl home and to bed, 
having no spirit for fun left in them. 

It probably will remain debatable whether man is closer Utopia 
or happier because of his ability to get from Buffalo to Harrisburg 
faster by automobile than he could behind a pair of horses or will fret 
less if the jet plane does to the motor car what the motor car did 
to the phaeton. The race may eventually go to those who learn to loaf 
again. 

What am I proving by these reminiscences ? Nothing at all. These 
chapters are a skylark which I dedicate to you and I write them to 
amuse myself and because I like to remember Mr* Ford as the most 
humaa gentleman I ever knew. He wrote his name large in his world 
and besides new trails he left, as all men do, an occasional muddy 
footprint on the carpet. 

W. C. R. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. CLAIRVOYANT BY POPULAR DEMAND i 

II. GOLDEN CORNUCOPIA n 

III. HE SADDLES A WHITE HORSE 24 

IV. THE LONELY BUGLER 35 
V. DODGE BROTHERS 50 

VI. TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 67 

VII. PAPER POGROM 87 

VIII. THE BALLET-MASTER 103 

IX. SAD ARE THE GHOSTS OF CREMONA . n6 

X. THE LITTLE TOY TRAIN 129 

XL HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR His HALO 144 

XII. NOSTALGIC JOURNEY INTO YESTERDAY 161 

XIII. CURIOSITY SHOP 179 

XIV. EDSEL 196 
XV. THE PALACE GUARD 217 

XVI. THE TORCH-BEARER 252 

XVII. HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 266 

XVIIL PLAT DU JOUR 288 

XIX. THE JESTER 302 

XX. MYTHS 318 

XXL MERCURIAL MAGNATE 332 

XXII. BILLIONS 348 

XXIIL LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 369 

XXIV. THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 393 

INDEX 413 



THE LAST 
BILLIONAIRE 



The world clamors for omnis 
cience, and Ford, obliging, be 
comes an authority on what 
to wear, how to dance, where 
man came from, where he is 
going. 



CHAPTER I 



CLAIRVOYANT BY 
POPULAR DEMAND 



THE New York Herald proposed in the administration of 
Woodjrow Wilson that I ask Henry Ford ten questions. 
It was the first time I had talked to him and what I remem 
ber most was his candor in saying he did not know the 
answers to four of the questions and would not try to guess. 

To four others he responded readily enough. The ninth he dis 
missed as a trick one which it was and over the last he paused, as if 
rolling around in his mouth a medicine of tart bite and could not make 
up his mind whether to swallow or spit it out. The editor apparently 
considered this one a capital fillip for the quiz. 

"Lastly, Mr. Ford," I said, laying the onus squarely on the assigns 
of James Gordon Bennett, "the Herald wishes to know how you feel 
co be the world's first billionaire." 

Mr. Ford was not a billionaire at the time but most people said 
he was, that being a round glamorous number, and, if he was not, the 
green was an easy chip shot away. He squirmed in his chair and twisted 
a leg over one arm of it, and then his eyes lost their equanimity and he 
exploded with an earthy vulgarism. I remember writing to the editor, 
"In answer to Question Ten Mr. Ford said, 'Oh, S~tP Your problem 
is what to do with it." 

What stuck in my memory in the intervening years was not so 



2 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

much the expletive as his frank admission of ignorance, the fact he had 
no answers for four questions and would not talk at least at the mo 
ment of things he knew nothing about. "I pass that one," he responded 
to each, or just shook his head. The hour would come when he would 
tackle the toughest without awe or misgiving and often without knowl 
edge. He would pass judgment quickly on world controversies, needing 
no more than a single sentence for the panacea. 

He had days when you thought him an unqualified genius and 
more; there were other days when his mind seemed to give off, strange 
emanations. Today you would say: "Those twenty words are it! Why 
hasn't anyone had enough sense to say it just that way before?" and 
the following day he would say something absurd and you would 
think you had not heard him aright. Later on, perhaps, you might be 
come suspicious of your own wisdom, as some of his executives did of 
theirs when something he said, ridiculous on its face, turned out in 
conceivably well and proved you and them wrong and him exactly 
right. 

Ford was a victim (if one can possibly use the word of one who 
worked so hard and did so much, and put a world on wheels instead 
of a mere privileged segment) of the reasoning that because a man piles 
up a vast fortune making a girdle or baking soda or tonic or flivver, the 
value of what he thinks improves with his net cash worth. Pre-eminence 
in one field, that is, guarantees capacity in all. 

They asked him everything. All his life, or at least from the 
announcement of his $5 day on, they asked him everything. One does 
not go to the Ritz for hot dogs or to a ball park lunch stand for entrc 
cdte with good sauce Bearnaise, but those who poured into Dearborn 
seemed to expect some such all-inclusive bullet since Mr. Ford was 
fabulously rich and must be champion chef at all recipes. There 
were only some dishes, they learned in time, he whipped up superla 
tively well Like all men he botched others, although his admissions of 
error were rare. 

The last time I talked to him was in 1946 in front of Henry Ford 
Hospital. He was in the rear seat of an automobile near the main en 
trance. He was alone. I passed without seeing him and unaccountably 
turned in entering the hospital I walked back to the sedan and he 
opened the door and extended his hand* During the First World War 
and through the twenties and early thirties it had been my assigameat 



CLAIRVOYANT BY POPULAR DEMAND 3 

as a working newspaperman practically to live in Dearborn and be 
available when Ford had something to say which made copy. But I 
met him irregularly from then on, and exchanged only a few words 
with him after Pearl Harbor. 

He said, "You don't look as if you needed to come to this 
place." 

I said, "How's the skating at Wayside? Been down there lately?" 

He was eighty-three and wore a shawl around his shoulders 
though the gentle warmth of a new spring was in the air. His expression 
took on remoteness as if he might have been visualizing his pond in 
Sudbury. 

Edsel Ford had died and the passing of his only son wounded the 
elder Ford deeply. His memory was not as good as it had been. Radical 
shakeups had occurred in top company personnel. The therapeutic 
services of Harry Herbert Bennett, once head of the company police, 
had been dispensed with to an interesting melange of rumor. His power 
had been so tough and pervasive that Ford employees in a 1937 Labor 
Day parade marched in masks, and said on placards that they hid their 
faces to protect their jobs, their wives and children. Charles E. Sorensen, 
the celebrated head of the vast Rouge plant, was out. Other mem 
bers of the inner coterie who had had their days of power were gone, 
fired or retired. He had signed a union contract more far-reaching than 
any in the industry. 

His dancing instructor for twenty years had called at the estate 
to pay his respects and had riot been remembered. The sands seemed 
running out. In the Rouge plant he had suddenly turned to his escort 
and asked where the reamer was that had been "right over there." 

"Right there in that spot!" he said, apparently puzzled. 

"Oh, we've moved that over to Department 46," the guide said 
or whatever the department may have been. 

The machine in question had been moved ten years before. 

"You don't owe me any more money for golf balls, do you?" he 
asked me, sitting there in the car with his shawl about him, the old 
quizzical light returning to his eyes. He caught my astonishment and 
chuckled softly. The reference was to a deal we had eighteen years 
before and all I could manage was a remark that I was not into him 
for a penny and wished only that I was, and he'd "never get it." How 
he remembered the incident, or why, I will never know. He was often 



4 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

deft in recalling an event that others had long forgotten and as con 
veniently forgetful about something which took place only yesterday. 

John C. Manning, now a Hearst editor; A. M. Smith, another 
newspaperman, and I rode cross country with Ford in 1928 to preview 
a scaley tavern he bought and restored to its natural glow by paint 
and white pickets and period furniture and a cuisine which would have 
amazed the men who used to larrup their herds and flocks to Detroit 
along the toll pike in front of it and dropped in for a night's sleep and 
a quenching nightcap. 

On the way we passed the golf club which Ford had built, and 
someone commented on the fine condition of the course and the 
seemly architecture of the rambling clubhouse. 

Somebody asked him if he played golf. He snorted and said he 
didn't. They got him to take some practice swings at a half dozen 
balls once but one almost grazed a child's head and no one could get 
him to touch a club again. Edsel played left-handedly in the 8o's. Ford 
asked if any of us played. "I luck around, but there never was a good 
southpaw," I answered. 

"Don't let him get you into a bet/* Manning cautioned gravely. 
"The present champion of New Zealand is a left hander, Mr. Ford." 

This probably was pure fiction but New Zealand was far enough 
away to prevent any check on the statement. Mr. Ford nodded soberly 
over the hint I might be seducing him into a one-sided contest. He 
asked if I played at his club and I said no and he wanted to know why 
not. 

"That's easy; I'm not a member," I said. 

He said he'd see to that come out any time; plenty of room, as 
we all could see. The property used to be part of the Ford farm. 

"You like to play golf, eh?" He looked as if he had caught me in 
some unworthy sin, but he had the twinkle that was there when he was 
baiting you. Why didn't he get some clubs and take a whack at the 
game? Smith said he'd get him a cheap putter. Manning thought he 
had an extra No. 4 iron. I told him I'd give him some repainted balls. 

"Energy should be spent on something useful" He broke ia with 
a lecture. "Children ought to learn to swim in case a boat tips over, 
Thfcy ought to play games so they'll be strong enough to protect them 
selves. But golf " his voice held disparagement. The only way to 

; scll Ford was to prove a thing useful or educational 



CLAIRVOYANT BY POPULAR DEMAND 5 

"But I like holing a ten-foot putt and I don't need to be husky 
to do it," I protested. "You ought to take me on some time." 

"See, Mr. Ford, he's after you; I warned you," Manning was 
saying from the front seat. 

"Ill take him on at a schottische or I'll run him into the ground 
at fifty yards," Ford bragged and tapped my excess poundage. 

Lilacs at a cross-roads set him on a new tangent. He said he had 
tried to buy them through an agent a while back. 

"Stop the car, Burns, will you?" The car slowed. "The man 
found out I wanted them and how much do you think he wanted? 
Five hundred dollars! I'd say they were worth $100 at the best." 

He hadn't quibbled over $175,000 for Wayside Inn or a half 
million for his peace ship; but while, as Henry Ford, he accepted some 
mark-up occasionally, he was stubborn at times when asked to pay a 
premium just because he was who he wasunless he wanted some 
thing so much he was willing to pay any price. 

When we got back to the laboratory he wrote a few lines to the 
manager of the golf club saying I was to be allowed course courtesies 
at any time and signed it "Henry Ford" in the same Spencerian style 
of the letters blown up to eye-catching height on the stacks of his plant 
and on the hoods of the cars coming down to dump coffee at Sao Paulo 
and tulip bulbs at the Dutch ports. 

The fourth or fifth time I played the course, my last ball dis 
appeared in the rough off the ninth fairway, and I walked over to the 
pro shop, picking out four new balls and putting the cash on the 
counter. 

"Sorry, we can't take money." The pro's young assistant pushed 
the bills back. "Just sign for them." 

"But I'm not a member; I'm a guest.'* 

"Whose?" 

"Mr. Ford, senior." 

"Well, sign his name to the tab." 

"I don't want to sign his name," I answered irritably. "I want to 
buy the balls. There is no good reason why they should be going on 
Mr. Ford's bill" 

"Sign it and give him the money when you see him." It was as 
simple as that to the caddymaster. 

A few days later I met Mr. Ford and told him of the transaction. 



6 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

He probably was about to buy a continent or run a sub-express to 
Calais, and probably telling me about it in the casual voice we use to 
say we must stop in for some razor blades. 

"So," I concluded, "I owe you three dollars." 

He said the cash would come in handy since he had left home 
without a dime that morning, and he put the bills in his pocket. He 
never seemed to have any money on him. Never gave money a thought, 
he'd say, ignoring the wince of a visitor who might be wondering from 
where the next payment on the mortgage was coming. Money had 
come to mean to Ford precisely what his coal heaps and scrap piles 
meant material to keep the plant running. 

He apparently frittered away the three dollars I gave him, for, 
several weeks later, I read in the papers he was broke again when the 
government issued a commemorative stamp in honor of Thomas Alva 
Edison, and Ford attended the ceremonies in Atlantic City incident to 
the first-day sale of the new postage. A two-column cut of Ford buying 
the first stamp carried lines which said he had to borrow two pennies 
from Mr. Russo, the mayor, to make the purchase. 

Interpreters usually divided into three camps. Some joined in 
uncritical art work and brought forth a lacquered image. Others in 
ferred he had debased the human race by strapping it to a machine and 
a sequence of repetitive back-breaking motions; and they, too, wound 
up with half the man. The third lot tried to strike a balance and met 
disbelief and were called straddlers since mankind wants its public 
men spotless or wholly base. Our celebrated ones must be Olympians 
or rogues from front bumper to tail-light. 

In the beginning Ford was shy and a great part o the time 
apprehensive of the motley hegira of troubled peoples at his door 
begging people, the princes and the pundits of press and pulpit poking 
questions at him when what he wanted was to be on with the manu 
facture of more and more Model T's, paying wages above the prevail 
ing rate for the work on them, and finding ways to turn out more and 
better cars in less and less time to sell cheaper and cheaper. He accepted 
the visitors in those days not altogether as a compliment but as a phe 
nomenon and a nuisance and ringed himself with men to sort the bell- 
ringers so he could get along with the things he knew about, 

He had made a gas-propelled automobile certainly not the first 
one an( J j h e could make enough and people would buy them, he 



CLAIRVOYANT BY POPULAR DEMAND 7 

obviously was by way of becoming an important figure in the world. 
Partly because of the first, but mainly drawn by his multiplying for 
tune, queues of people stretching out to every horizon came to ask 
the queerest questions about what he thought of transcendentalism, if 
there was a God, and about other mooted subjects to which he 
had given no, or small, thought. Seven gentlemen who said they were 
Jesus Christ presented themselves the year following World War 
L Those to whom the secret of perpetual motion had been reputedly 
revealed came in gross lots. As a rule, those who wanted just unorna- 
mented cash asked for it in even numbers, obligingly. They invariably 
wanted $1,000 or $100,000 or $1,000,000. 

He had in 1914 the manufacturing formula that was to pay off. 
A tiny model of his car stood under glass at one end of his Highland 
Park office, and Julian Street, a writer for a magazine of the day, asked 
how the company had managed to do a volume of $225,000,000 up to 
then. 

"By getting one model of the right idea," Ford said promptly, 
pointing to the englassed miniature. "That's the secret of the whole 
dog-goned thing. There she is!" 

All you had to do, he said, was to find something everybody 
wanted and make it and nothing else. In his case, a crony of his 
crisply put it, everybody "wanted to go from A to B sitting down." 

"Shoemakers ought to settle on one shoe, stovemakers on one 
stove. Me? I like specialists." Ford leaned across the desk and shook his 
finger at the writer. It was why he was fond of Harry Lauder and 
Thomas Edison, he thought. 

He was asked if his vaulting money had made a difference in 
his living. 

"Well," he stewed, "my wife doesn't cook any more, or not much. 
We hire cooks but none can hold a candle to her," He said his stream 
lined kitchen staff tried to serve him a lot of fancy food and he wished 
they'd stop it. 

Ford changed. It is hard to pin-point the exact time. In some ways 
he never changed, of course, but in the matter of extra-curricular ad 
venture it was a slow evolution. If admiring mail does not abate and 
petitions for one's opinions steadily mount, a man may logically think 
he is wrong in his modesty and the questing crowd right. Perhaps he 
did know the answers, he may have decided one morning, Maybe there 



8 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

was in him the spark which privileged him not only to counsel on the 
grand scale but to impose counsel. 

In subsequent years he was to take on a galaxy of foemen in 
defense of his views, and on myriads of gridirons he was to run with 
the ball with comfortable assurance. He thrust with aplomb into spheres 
where he had little experience and less information. He jousted with 
preparedness and the Jew, international bankers and Wall Street, 
cigarettes and alcohol and the Chicago Tribune, and he was to express 
his views stoutly on history, commodity money, medical ethics, short 
skirts, tariffs, the farm problem, food fads, old-fashioned dancing, re 
incarnation and what-not. He could be Pericles the wise and Throttle- 
bottom the fumbler, all in the space of ten minutes. 

He was never stopped by the possibility that some work he had 
in mind could not be done. A hundred errors simply meant he had 
learned one hundred things not to do again. If he ran the wrong way 
of the field he could rationalize it by saying it taught him not to run 
like that a second time. It was enough for him that what he wanted to 
do seemed the desirable thing. He was always looking for and putting 
men to work on the desirables. He had a superb confidence and one 
could not imagine his going home of an evening and saying in private: 
"Well, Henry, you certainly booted things around the plant today. You 
just didn't look too good." 

His name entranced the great and the humble. In an obscure 
Italian hill town I once browsed in a linen shop. The goods had been 
wrapped, my lire were still on the counter and the proprietor was re 
ceipting a bill for customs. For some reason he asked if I was an 
American and where in America I lived. 

"Detroit," I said. 

"Henry Fordl" he exclaimed, instantly. 

He asked if I knew Mr. Ford, and I said I did, and I was a half 
hour getting out of the establishment. What sort of a man, truly, was 
Mr. Ford? Did he really pay the men who swept his factories $6 or $7 
a day? The dialogue was liberally dusted with many Tuscan Ah's and 
Oh's. When we had finished, the proprietor drew back the sales slip 
and rewrote the figures. Where a half hour earlier my bill had been 800 
lire, it was now lowered to 600 and two 100 lire notes were pushed back 
at me across the counter. 

"But I understood I owed you 800 lire/* I said* 



CLAIRVOYANT BY POPULAR DEMAND 9 

"You know Henry Ford/' he beamed, and his black eyes could 
have held no more esteem if I had revealed an intimacy with St. Peter 
or Titian. "I could not take 800 lire from you. Scusa!" 

Ford, as time wore on, did not content himself with empire 
building and his brimming chests, his famed mastery of mass pro 
duction and his fatherhood of the rising day rate. He had confounded 
skeptics at more points than one in making motor cars and gauging the r 
market. He had challenged and refuted some established canons of 
business regarded as sacred word. He socialized a billion dollars, one 
enthusiastic economist was to write, by "dedicating the output of his 
money to an indispensable use and rededicating the profits to an ex 
tension of that use." 

He built 31,000,000 motor-propelled vehicles. He made fools of 
those who said originally there was only a class market for such a 
contrivance as a horseless carriage. He built a car in less time than you 
can get your shoes shined, and, while you were in a barber chair for a 
shave and a haircut. Ford could turn out fifteen or twenty complete 
automobiles. 

The synchronization was such that on a peak day of two shifts 
Ford workers put together in all assembly plants just slightly less than 
10,000 cars in sixteen hours, or at a rate of a finished car in slightly 
under a minute. Willow Run turned out 6-24 bombers of 1,500,000 
parts at a top speed of seventeen in a two-day shift, or just shy of one 
an hour. But all this was not enough. 

Ford wanted to be Nostradamus and Cassandra and Joel Kup- 
perman or people insisted he be and he allowed himself to pontificate 
like most men, however unqualified. The difference was that other men 
did not get headlines; if Mr. Ford said off-handedly he liked deviled 
crabs or pork chops it was wired and cabled to the world. 

He was hard and gentle, straightforward and devious. Men who 
made any flat statement about him usually found they had to hedge. 
He was this or that but invariably he was the antithesis, too. Men 
would cite his gentleness and then think right away of a hundred inci 
dents where he was not. They would say he was ruthless and then 
could disprove it with a long list of kindnesses. 

He had the lucidity of a clear thinking, profound man at times. 
And again, a critic said, he seemed to be "trying to bring up a large 
family of words on a small income of ideas." He rid himself of partners 



io THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

and executives'the conveyor never dropped a stitch. He had a naive 
trust in human nature, mixed with a deep suspicion that the most 
honorable gesture of a competitor was designed to dupe him and do 
him in. When the directors of his principal rival met, he was sure they 
just sat about the table hollering "Get Ford!" and he knew they met 
for no other purpose. 

He had an expert sense of materials and mechanical processes. 
There is a story, perhaps fictional, that some wag brought a common 
washer to him and asked where it belonged on a Ford car, and that he 
flung it out a window with the remark that it didn't belong to a Ford 
at all. 

He considered a full day's work holy and he had exhaustless zeal. 
Attacked on every side save that of his private life, no scandal brushed 
Fair Lane* He did not believe in set hours of work but thought a man 
ought to work as long as he was able, and should enjoy his work so 
much that he would almost count the time lost when he was not work 
ing. Unfortunately he had no prescription as to how this could be 
realized for his men in the foundry, for instance, who may have 
thought, also, the matter of choice would be nice. Ford himself would 
have been no one to last on an assembly line. Team work was not his 
dish. 

A magazine analyst got the impression that Ford was a man 
who had somehow outgrown himself, his brain "reaching into a region 
far different from that touched by his manipulating hands and trodden 
by his feet," and Dean Samuel S. Marquis, an Episcopal divine who 
quit his pulpit to head Ford's sociological department and quit Ford 
in disgust five years later to re-enter the church, exclaimed: "If only Mr. 
Ford was properly assembled! He has in him the makings of a great 
man but the parts are lying about in more or less disorder." 

It was all part of a Brobdingnagian script to which Ford con 
tributed heavily of punch and feat and failure. In the final totals over 
whelming balance was on his side. His failures never got the space of 
his successes, and what he did industrially to transform a world of 
watering troughs and hitching posts dwarfed whatever he said. Some 
one may be able in time to find and confidently fit together all the 
pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, The writer does not pretend to do it here* 
The masks were so many it was hard at times to distinguish the man 
behind them. 



An industrial infidel volun 
tarily doubles the pay of those 
who work for him and a 
divided world wrangles over 
whether hes a new holy child 
or an idiot. 



CHAPTER II 
GOLDEN CORNUCOPIA 



HENRY FORD shook the precious American economy from 
its capstans in 1914 by announcing he would share with his 
employees a minimum of $i 0,000,000 of his succeeding year's 
profits, dating from right then, and would pay every worker 
who qualified a minimum of $5 a day, including sweepers. 

It landed him on the front page and there he was to stay until 
his death. 

The first piece of publicity involving him appeared May 10, 1883. 
He ,was twenty. In the same paper appeared an account of two Mid-west 
gentlemen dueling with broadswords. 

Ford was an obscure farmboy driving a wagon out a dusty road 
to home. He was nobody one second but when he came to he was on 
Page One, painfully, for the first time. He was not to move up there 
permanently until thirty years later, when he would claim a thousand 
headlines, but it was a start. After reciting the general damage done 
by a violent gale the previous day, the Detroit Free Press particularized 
about the most serious accident of the day: 

The main storm cloud burst within four or ,five feet of the 
ground at a railroad crossing on Grand River avenue at the time 
that Henry Ford, a young farmer who lives in Dearborn town 
ship, nine miles out the road, was driving a team attached to a 
lumber wagon upon which was an empty hay-rack. 

The whirlwind caught Ford's wagon and whirling it several 



ii 



12 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

feet above the ground overturned it. When Ford was picked up it 
was thought he was dead and he was carried into the toll-house 
nearby where he remained unconscious until City Physician 
Chancy arrived. An examination showed no bones broken but it 
is feared that serious internal injuries were sustained. 

After restoratives were applied he recovered slightly, and after 
being made as comfortable as possible, an ambulance took him 
home. At the breaking of the storm Ford's horses took fright and 
ran nearly a mile beyond the toll-gate before captured. 

There was no follow-up to tell how the patient was making out 
the next day, no hourly bulletins. The newspaper did run his full name 
in the third deck of the head: "Henry Ford Seriously Hurt; His Horses 
and Wagon Demoralized." The newspapers forgot him thereafter. Later 
headlines would come less arduously. 

The New York Times index of 1913 contained no mention of 
him. Who's Who did not list him. After 1913 he was, like his car, 
ubiquitous. 

No spotlight could shift fast enough thereafter to keep him out 
of it. Midnight did not strike again for Cinderella for a long time, 
The band played on, and when he wanted privacy, which he rarely 
did, he had to work for it. 

A generation accustomed to spiraling prices may not grasp why 
a good 95 per cent of the world reacted to Ford's minimum-wage 
announcement as if a new holy child had been born, but a worker in 
manufacturing at the time got 22 cents an hour and weekly earnings 
averaged $11 though the Ford rate was slightly higher. Ford's program, 
like his manufacturing methods, was to change the face of the earth. 

It was in the Ford tradition when Henry Ford II was first to 
reduce prices after World War II but his was the low pop of a cap- 
pistol compared to his grandfather's deafening blast of thirty-three 
years before. 

The senior Ford's purposes were set down in a formal statement* 
It was polished off by someone who, searching for the ultimate in 
puffery, settled for "the greatest revolution ever known in the world 
in the matter of reward for workers." Briefly the plan was this : 

1. He would divide with employees at least $10,000,000 of the 
1914 profits. Actual distribution was $12,000,000. 

2, Production would be continuous, giving employment to sev- 



GOLDEN CORNUCOPIA 13 

eral thousand more men through three shifts o eight hours instead o 
two shifts of nine. 

3. Minimum wage under the plan would be $5 a day, even for 
sweepers. 

The broom-pusher immediately became an acute worry of people 
who never had given the least thought to him. Tears were shed over 
his fate in this new affluence, and those who felt this over-night solici 
tude ticked off appalling pitfalls facing a man who got $5 a day instead 
of $2.34. Even Mr. Ford leaned to this philosophy and set up some 
rules of conduct. 

The young man between eighteen and twenty-two had to show 
himself sober and saving, and satisfy the company that the money paid 
him would not be frittered on high living. "Riotous" was the word used. 
Determination of what "riotous" meant was vested in a sociological 
staff. 

A married man had to live with and take care of his family, and 
single men over twenty-two were to be thrifty, likewise. A rule was 
sought by which all men could live comfortably and Ford arrogated to 
himself the right to impose on others the one he lived by as a rather 
nice model. Since employment by the company under the new arrange 
ment would be pecuniarily desirable, he used profit-sharing as^a lever 
by which to discipline rowdies who did not behave the way he thought 
they should. 

Henry Ford, a boy off a farm with a useful idea, was about to go 
to town with it. It was an ironic twist that a man to whom money 
meant little should be headed for more than he could aver count or 
closely estimate. He said to me once, "I didn't know often if we'd have 
the rent," and in the next breath, as though the incongruity had just hit 
him, "I paid $79,000,000 in taxes last year." 

Books about him were to appear in every European stall. He be 
came a verb, "Fordize," which meant to dp things the way he did them. 
"Fordism," which was his philosophy, was hotly debated. Wouldn't 
"Fordism," as some called it abroad, change the continent beyond all 
recognition? Germans lined up all night to buy securities when he built 
a plant in the Reich. Ford of England was a sensation on the London 
Bourse. A world wage survey was made. An Italian found a Ford 
worker in America could have five times as much food and as many 
rooms to live in as he, and wore clothes five times as expensive. 



i 4 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

But now, in 1914, he was merely offering commerce a new 
philosophy. Profit had been based on payment of wages as low as a 
worker would take, and on pricing as high as the traffic would bear. 
Wages were kept down and history was bloodied by battles fought for 
another nickel an hour. Ford became a classic example of low pricing 
for the widest market and then trying to meet the price by volume and 
efficiency. He ran the other way to what the others were running, and 
the moans were heart breaking. Labor, he said, was a consumer to be 
paid well so it could consume more. But doubling wages voluntarily? 
There never had been such heresy. 

The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce named Henry 
Ford II the young man of 1945 most likely to succeed. With the head 
start he had, this was a bet on Stymie to outrun Mr. Fred Allen over 
the Derby mile and a quarter, but there were no such kudos for his 
grandpa in 1914. He was bound straight for the toothy shallows, the 
dour said, if he did not get back on the proven course. Paying the 
rascals $5 a day was not the American way of life, circa 1914. 

The assassination of Archduke Francis in June set the stage for 
the first World War. A sickly painter of business posters named Hitler 
was rejected by the Austrians as unfit for military service and goose- 
stepped off with one Rudolf Hess and the less exacting Sixteenth 
Bavarians to the first battle of Ypres. 

A seven-year-old redhead played about a cottage in West Virginia 
and seemed infinitely remote from the affairs of Henry Ford, but as 
Walter Reuther, of the UAW-CIO, thirty years later, was to help 
spectacularly to prick the boast that no union ever would stick its un 
ruly head in the doors of the Ford plant. 

The press of New York gave Mr. Ford's announcement the 
Manhattan project of the day 57 columns in a week and pundits 
praised and stoned him for his daring. 

The ayes said it was magnificent generosity ... a tidal push of 
civilization ... a great Christian impulse which indicates the reign of 
a nobler conscience in industry. 

The nays proclaimed it an economic blunder and foresaw unrest 
in the shops of other companies* Did Mr. Ford think industrial justice 
could be founded on such an uneconomic foundation? If the practice 
was extended, said one, people would not work for wages but offer 
good behavior ia trade for gifts, largess or bonuses, The New York 



GOLDEN CORNUCOPIA 15 

Journal of Commerce suggested it was a form of advertising by which 
Ford meant to get rid of some of his "bothersome" millions. 

A month before the announcement certain Ford executives an 
swered their telephones one Sunday morning and heard his voice at 
the other end asking if they were doing anything in particular. 

"I wish you'd come over to the plant/' he said. He had some 
thing, he said, he wanted to talk over and didn't want to do it over 
the phone. 

He had a worried talk with Couzens, his second in command, 
three weeks before over a scene in the shop. As he and an advertising 
man, with Edsel some yards in front of them, approached a drill press 
the operator glanced up and glowered at the boy. He wheeled back to 
his machine, seized a mallet and poised it as if about to smash the die 
and jig in front of him. The spasm passed, however. The machine hand 
wound up by giving the press a kick and tossing the hammer from 
him in a gesture of man embittered but not quite sure what to do 
about it. 

Edsel was unaware of the angry show but the senior Ford saw 
it. "Did you see the hate in that fellow's face?" he asked his companion 
as they swung into another aisle. "Why should the sight of me and 
my boy affect him that way?" 

He seemed to be pondering the age-old emotion of economic 
envy. "He was going to smash that press!" Ford was unacquainted 
with any temper which would purposely spend itself in breaking a good 
machine. 

He claimed to be psychic and able to tell usually what a man was 
going to say to him before the words were out. "He was saying," he 
guessed this time, 'Look at Henry Ford's boy! What chance has mine 
beside him?'" But why should anyone begrudge him his enlarging 
kingdom? He had come by it the hard way. His was no willed fortune 
for which he had not worked. Of course there was an element of luck. 
It was true other men could sweat even more and never make the strike 
he had. But there was no- silver spoon, no stock-jobbing in it, and it 
was not based on quackery or some gimcrack which the world would 
have been better without. 

"I wonder/' he said to Couzens, "what it would cost to change 
that fellow so he'd be glad to see us when we come along, or not resent 
us?" 



16 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Couzens thought higher wages might do it but had no other 
remedy. 

The incident in the shop Ford kept to himself, except for 
Couzens, but he mentioned it this December morning and he asked 
the same question he had asked of his advertising manager when the 
workman had swung his hammer in his short-lived temper. Ford also 
relieved himself of some other tribulations. 

The company had to hire 54,000 men in a year to maintain a 
13,000 average. That was a 400 per cent turnover. He was sick of peanut 
raises doled out by foremen to the workers they liked or to those who 
asserted themselves. That way too many quiet fellows missed out. 

He did not understand the floaters and the general instability. 
He was no worse off than competitors but this was no consolation. He 
genuinely wanted a big happy family. 

He couldn't understand a fellow not always being on the job 
and giving the best he had. His own eyes glistened when he walked in 
a plant door, heard the octaves of sound, saw spread before him the 
vista of belts and cranes. The Hereafter was going to be like it or 
he would sell his stock in eternity. 

He also was making what he called an "awful" profit. Not so 
many years before his 'New York manager occasionally would sell a 
car for what he could get and run with cash in hand to the Chemical 
National so it could telephone a Detroit bank to release the Ford pay 
roll Once he got a breathing spell by taking 50,000 orders for cars at 
the New York show and collecting a $50 deposit on each in advance. 
Now he was making too much. It used to be the problem of paucity; 
now it was plenty. 

Nobody had used the word before in reference to profits. The 
men in the room gritted their teeth over the adjective, Profits were 
never "awful.'* 

"I called you here this morning principally to talk about a wage 
raise/' he sprang it finally. "How much now do you think the com 
pany can pay and needs to pay to satisfy the men?" 

"Want some figures, Mr. Ford?" 

He said he ought to have some and said for "Charlie** to give 
him some. Out ia the shop they might have figured on a shingle. That 
was factory practice. He and Charles E. Sorensen, later power at the 
Rouge, were to use a shingle to rough-sketch layouts at the bomber 



GOLDEN CORNUCOPIA 17 

plant in World War II, but now Charlie used a blackboard at one side 
of the private office. He picked up some chalk and wrote down the 
three standbys materials, overhead, labor* The minimum plant wage 
went up on the board. It was $2.34. 

"Now add a quarter," said Ford. 

Well, that could be absorbed easily. 

"Try another 25 cents." 

He was adding quarters when the others in the room were con 
tent to stop, Now, they wagged their heads and questioned. Mr. Ford 
was a little daffy this morning. He had passed the point of feasibility 
$3-5> $3755 $4-- Probably he was having a little joke. On the basis of 
their arithmetic it couldn't be done. The company could not stand the 
cost. They smiled uneasily, not sure where he was heading. 

"Why not $6 a day," Sorensen said, breaking the tension. Well, 
they laughed at such an improbable notion. 

"Add another 25 cents to that last figure, Charlie," Ford said and 
new calculations began. The total reached a point double the prevailing 
rate. "I guess that's it," the head of the company nodded over the last 
total. 

All agreed a raise was in order and good business, but each saw a 
different virtue in it. No one but Ford thought the rate could be 
doubled. 

"Well, keep this under your hats and we'll talk about it next 
Sunday." Ford dismissed them. 

They went down the hall shaking their heads over the figure on 
the blackboard. Apparently the old man was not fooling. He'd lose his 
shirt. Always someone was saying Ford would lose his shirt although 
he always seemed to maintain a tight hold on it. 

After the next week's discussion he saw Couzens. "He's for it- 
says if we're going to be fools let's be first-class fools and make it $5 a 
day," one of those present reported Ford saying of Couzens' reaction. 

Another version is that Couzens forced the issue of the $5 day at 
sight of storming workers being hosed at the front gate on a wintry 
day when they demonstrated against a layoff. He was to say years later 
he never gave a thought to labor's welfare up to the moment of the icy 
rout of the men he saw from his office window. 

"We lose good will by that," he told Ford, angrily. He led Ford 
to the window and pointed to water freezing on the retreating workers. 



i8 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Ford agreed that those on both sides of the gate should have 
found a better way. 

"I know we can't escape seasonal layoffs" Couzens moderated 
his tone "but we can pay workers more money to tide them over the 
slack periods." 

Ford asked how much the men were being paid now. Couzens 
told him. Ford said other companies weren't paying more. Couzens 
said he missed the point. "We're also making a hell of a lot more than 
they are," he reminded. 

Couzens argued that $5 a day would give employees a proper 
nest-egg, and Ford said he would see Pete Martin, the Highland Park 
superintendent. He reported back that Martin stuck out for a $3 mini 
mum. Couzens said it wasn't enough, that Martin did not know what 
he was talking about. Well, Ford would see Martin again. 

Couzens marshalled fresh arguments. The company was going 
places. The Selden patent case was out of the way won and the 
bonds posted to protect Ford buyers were no longer a sword over his 
head. The country had just spent a half billion on roads. Single handed, 
Ford had disproved the misgivings of a man named Woodrow Wilson, 
now in the White House, who seven years before had been shrilling 
from an ivory tower in Princeton that nothing was spreading socialism 
like the automobile "new symbol of wealth's arrogance." 

Ford had no competition worth the name. The car was no longer 
a dream in a woodshed. Of all automobiles sold 39 per cent were his. 
The road behind was strewn with luckless and misguided foes out 
distanced. Chevrolet was a pasteup of a small company in Michigan 
and another in Jersey, making a couple of thousand cars, that's all, 
and asking $2,000 apiece for them. Ford made as many every day. 

Martin said he would go for a raise to $4 a day. Couzens said 
Martin was a fathead, 

"Five, or to hell with it!" He said give it or keep the minimum 
where it was. 

"All right, I'll go for it," Ford assented. 

Two weeks later the press was called in and Couzens talked 
while Ford tilted back in his chair with his head against the wall The 
general manager was little known. Some of the newspapers called him 
"Gcotge" instead of James. No out-of-town journals were represented 
but in twenty-four hours they were there in droves. 



GOLDEN CORNUCOPIA 19 

Said Couzens: "We want those who have helped to produce this 
institution to have profits and future prospects. The movement toward 
a better society does not need to be started universally and simul 
taneously," 

Said Ford: "We believe in making 20,000 prosperous instead of 
a few slave-drivers rich." 

Instead of waiting until the end of the year to make a distribu 
tion he and Couzens had estimated the year's profits and had fixed 
upon a sum they thought was safe. It would be spread over the year 
and reach employees on the regular semi-monthly pay days. 

A writer in Everybody's, prosperous monthly, guessed Ford had 
become bored by "the monotony of his own competence," and this was 
a bulletin on the factory wall to notify workers he was not a bronze 
statue but much like they were. 

The rush to the gold fields began before the newspaper ink was 
dry. For a week there was no peace. A newspaper reporter warned that 
5,000 would be pummeling at the gates at dawn. He was wrong. 
Twelve thousand descended afoot, by trail and trolley, bicycle and 
jalopy. 

Regular employees formed a wedge to get in but rebounded off 
a wall of the early battalions. 

The mob grew and it was necessary to unroll the hose to knock 
out a passage for those who had work to do inside the plant. Lunch 
carts were overturned. Stones sailed through plant windows. A false 
rumor circulated Ford was firing all foreign born to make jobs for 
100 per centers. Police reinforcements deployed.' A fence in front of the 
employment office caved before the attack. A harried company spokes 
man climbed a packing box and raised a hand. 

"We're not ready to take on extra men!" he bellowed. "No one 
will be hired today!" The crowd surged toward him. The herald fled. 
A placard was tacked up at 10 A.M. repeating his message and adding 
that applicants would not be interviewed until the middle of the month. 
Some who had accepted the company's telephone number, 50-50, as a 
lucky portent abandoned faith in it. 

Job-hunters roughed the night, lit bonfires, still milled in the 
streets at daybreak. Steel chains replaced the leveled fence. The com 
pany announced it would not open the employment office until the 
crowd dispersed. Tumultuously the lobby was overrun. 



20 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Ford and Couzens were at the New York show. Photographers 
broke down palms in the lobby of the Belmont to get an unobstructed 
shot of them. A Jersey horticulturist named a new white orchid in 
Ford's honor. 

Ford sat for a delighted Madison Avenue sculptor and a dubious 
Broadway barber. The sculptor said the sitter was an ideal husband 
since he talked all the time of how nice it would be if Mrs. Ford would 
consent to sit for a head and shoulders. The barber said he doubted 
greatly if that fellow Henry Ford out in Detroit intended to make good 
his fabulous promise. 

"Sounds fishy to me," he said wisely. "What do you think?" He 
seemed agreeable to shifting sides if the customer had a different 
opinion. 

"I work there," said his customer. "When he says he'll do some 
thing he will do it." 

"You work there, eh?" The barber lost his cocksureness. 

"And hard/' Ford nodded. 

The barber yelled over to a partner that here was a guy, Al, who 
worked at Ford's and who said Henry Ford's $5 a day was on the level. 

"Get me a job there, Mister," the other barber came over to say. 

Back from Manhattan Couzens denied that a strike victory o 
textile workers under I.W.W. leadership had anything to do with the 
Ford company's decision. 

The besieging army, still bivouacked around the plant, worried 
him. Had everything been done to make clear that only unemployed 
workers who lived in the Detroit area would be considered? Hypno 
tized workers in other factories were assuming the names of relatives 
and posing as jobless at the Ford gates, although under the plan a 
worker had to be on the Ford payroll six months to qualify for a 
share in the profits. 

Rivals moaned. Charles King, president of King Motor, adver 
tised that the previous year every employee of his company had received 
virtually 10 per cent of his profits in addition to his regular pay, so 
that actually he was first at profit sharing,, as well as first with "canti 
lever springs and left steer." Hugh Chalmers, another tycoon^ said the 
Ford plan was too radical for the industry as a whole ever to adopt. 

The warning of Couzens was wasted because of a fresh rumor 
the company had fired noo Hungarians, Russians, Greeks and Ru- 



GOLDEN CORNUCOPIA 21 

manians for laying off two days to celebrate the Greek Christmas. The 
company denied the mass discharge and explained the boys had been 
sent home to sober up but their jobs were waiting for them. 

On Saturday the crowd had thinned slightly and the poets 
massed. Editors were deluged with poesy: 

Strive on, benevolent and %ind, 
Ma^e needed, useful things 
To ease the strain upon man's spirit. 
And this : 

Himself the fruit of creative genius 

He saw in other men his own tynd; 
With quicT^ arrest of thought he turned, 

Brought from the largess of the years, the fruit 
With outstretched hands; "Ta^e of your own," 

He simply said. 

Incense curled high Sunday in blessing of his works. City Hall 
steps crowded Monday with discouraged job-hunters come from afar 
with one-way tickets and beginning to feel the twin pangs of diminish 
ing hope and empty stomachs. Ford phoned an offer of $50,000 for relief 
purposes more if it was needed and moved into his hospital some 
of those who had no beds. The sharing of $10,000,000 and 4,000 jobs 
proved not an easy division. 

Newspapers had been swallowing hard over the load of copy 
from the new automobile industry and had been dumping most of it 
into waste baskets when unaccompanied by checks. The $5 day was a 
new poser. Was it news? Was it advertising to be billed accordingly? 
The Associated Press thought the latter. It did not put the story on its 
wires. Some of its subscribers bought special dispatches from newsmen 
on the ground, however, and then let go a blast at their news service 
for failure to distinguish between legitimate news and publicity blurbs. 
Utterances of Henry Ford, sacred or profane, were to rate thereafter 
with papal encyclicals. 

Reporters fired more questions. What of the effect on other com 
panies? "No factory is big enough to make two models of cars. Let 
them concentrate on one!" Ford also urged the press to get his idea 
before the public as he meant it. 



22 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"It's not a stated sum to be distributed it's half the profit," he 
insisted. The more the company made the more the men made. 

It figured this way. A man got a minimum wage which was 
about 15 per cent above what was being paid in the area for the kind 
of work he was doing. The minimum wage, PLUS the profit, made the 
$5. The hourly profit-sharing rate was graduated so as to give those re 
ceiving the lowest hourly rate the highest proportion of profits. 

For example, a man receiving 34 cents an hour had a profit rate 
of 28^2 cents an hour in addition. This gave him total income of $5 a 
day. A man getting 54 cents an hour had a profit-sharing rate of 21 
cents an hour, or a total daily wage of $6. 

What if profits went down? 

"We'll consider that when we come to it." 

Had his raise been reflected in production? 

Some men had to be slowed down because they got ahead of the 
assembly line. No department could speed up independently without 
dislocating the timed lines. 

A sub-foreman said it wasn't right that in his department he got 
$6 a day and a rank greenhorn $5. 

"But it's something we're only trying. We ask you to co-operate." 

"I don't like it. I've worked here a long time; this fellow's a 
newcomer. He gets only a dollar less than I do." 

No, he wasn't satisfied with a reduction in work hours from nine 
to eight hours and a wage boost from $4.30 to $6. Look at the loss to his 
prestige if the wage differential between a green hand and him was 
only one dollar!" 

"Turn in your badge!" 

The critics left Ford, uncontested, the palm for originating the 
welfare program, and tore it to pieces. It was based on the premise that 
you could call the tune if you paid the piper. Many workers figured 
that since the sweat which earned the money was theirs, domestic 
brawling, overcrowded homes and Monday hangovers were their divine 
privilege. He did not have much luck with mass uplift. Workers didn't 
want a guardian angel in the spare bedroom. 

He got an Episcopal dean to run the sociological department 
but old-stagers in high places often thumbed their noses at the "folde- 
rol" and sabotaged his program* They said too much time was lost from 
production in welfare interviewing. Some investigators turned jailers 



GOLDEN CORNUCOPIA 23 

and meddled in matters that seemed none o their business. Some o 
the guinea pigs quit, and so did the dean eventually. 

But eight thousand families moved to better quarters the first 
year. Rewards steadied the men. Labor turnover fell from 400 to 33 
per cent. Accidents were cut 90 per cent. Insurance policies and bank 
deposits rose and investment in homes and real estate increased 85 per 
cent in 12 months. 

When his welfare plan was criticized as paternalistic he told the 
Federal Commission on Industrial Relations he didn't want men work 
ing for him who shirked their family responsibilities. "I have conditions, 
not theories, to face," he said. He said theorists did not have to get along 
with 24,000 workers, all of a different stripe. 

Ford straddled an old stump on the estate years later. The 
genesis o the $5 day had been so confused by loose guessing, con 
tradictory yarns and what psychiatrists call the retrospective falsification 
of memory that I asked him about it. For instance, why the concern 
over the sweeper? 

"The skilled man," he said, "got enough to raise his family but 
the unskilled man didn't and it was just as necessary for one as the 
other to provide for his household. Take the sweeper out of the shop 
and it would not be fit to work in. We get more than a sweeper's wages 
back in what he picks off the floor." 

Of course there was more than one reason. If a man was paid 
well, he would work harder. Profits would rise and Ford could expand 
and there would be more jobs for more men. The company would be 
able to lower prices still farther and the public would benefit the lower 
the price the wider the field of sale. It was a circle. It couldn't miss. 

A month after the late President Roosevelt gave a Kansas gover 
nor a thumping at the polls, a social worker visiting the Ford home told 
the motormaker of her search for a Model T, despite the fact that he 
had ceased to manufacture that model ten years before. She wanted to 
buy one if 1 she could find one that was not completely worn out and 
she had had no luck thus far, she said. 

"There must be one around," he said. 

"I wish I knew where." 

Ford smiled broadly **We made about as many of them as 
Landon got votes." 



Ford mounts his first crusade 
and burns tobacco of his pri 
vate golf club on a ceremonial 
bonfire to make clear his stand 
on cigarettes. 



CHAPTER III 
HE SADDLES A WHITE HORSE 



UNTIL HIS fifties Henry Ford made no effort to cross the 
perimeter of his own shining genius and worry about the 
sins of the human race. No one remembers any mania for 
making bad men good or any concern if an early shop- 
mate helled around. If Ford was concerned, no one recalls his say 
ing so. 

With the cheering section still on its feet, however, he decided to 
challenge evil, or evil as he conceived it, and reshape people more in 
his own image. It may have been that the rapid ascent to headlines on 
his private funicular made him slightly gid.dy or he may have mis 
taken the popular acclaim for a nomination to godhood. He became 
enamored, at any rate, of the show window and craved more limelight 
and authority. Years would pass before he would share or loan or give 
away either. 

Father William Ford had remarked pessimistically to a friend, 
"John and William (Henry's brothers) are all right but Henry worries 
me. He doesn't seem to settle down and I don't know what will be 
come of him." Henry was twenty at the time. His father also said 
morosely he would glut the market when production got to thirty-five 
cars a day. 

The founder of Ford Motor built 10,000 a day in time and made 
more than 31,000,000 mechanical vehicles up to March ^of 1946, exclu 
sive of bombers, amphibian jeeps, tank destroyers, Bren gun carriers 
and other upholstery of war. There also was a small item of a million 

24 



HE SADDLES A WHITE HORSE 25 

tractors. Father William's son made hash of the adage "Father knows 
best." Father did not know what he was talking about. 

Consumption was sixteen billion in 1914 when Ford sounded his 
first warning against cigarettes. By 1945 it had risen to 267,500,000,000, 
exclusive o a hundred million additional going to the armed forces 
outside the United States. His crusade against them, like his father's 
opposition to Henry becoming a machinist, had all the success of a 
butterfly trying to heel the Queen Elizabeth by doing handsprings on 
its stack deck. 

Thomas Alva Edison gave the campaign the slap on the withers 
that got it out of the starting gate. Around a shore fire in Florida he 
told of testing a chemical known as acrolein when rummaging about 
for a filament to use in the incandescent light. Ford said he never heard 
of it. Edison said it was in cigarette paper. 

"Rots the nerve centers," said Edison. "I don't employ anyone 
who smokes cigarettes." 

"Young people shouldn't be taking that stuff into their lungs, 
should they?" Ford turned thoughtfully to his companions. Any threat 
to young people worried him. 

"Not if they want to live long," Edison said. 

The fact that Edison had spoken on the subject was good enough 
for Ford. He had said cigarettes were deadly injurious; Ford was for 
immediately nailing up danger signs for all to see and reroute them 
selves accordingly. Edison had once given him a helping hand when 
he needed it most; what Edison said thereafter was wisdom off Sinai. 

In the years ahead Tom was to talk of building houses by pour 
ing concrete into molds Henry said he'd pour 400 as a starter. Tom 
said it might be practicable to extract rubber from goldenrod and 
alcohol from cantaloupe the next thing Henry was buying acreage in 
Georgia and Pennsylvania to try it. Even when Edison said he would 
not support him for President but as manager of an industrial plant 
would vote for him twice Ford warmed to the praise and ignored 
the snub. Edison could do no wrong. 

Ford hustled north, asking Edison before leaving to write him a 
letter on the ravaging effect of acrolein that would stand up scientifi 
cally, and pitched into the new found fray while the world was still 
babbling about his plan to share $10,000,000 with his employees and 
debating whether he was a sentimental no-account or a canny outrider 



26 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

for a new and disturbing order. Whichever it was, he had set up a 
frightening ferment in the status quo. People were talking of little else. 

He launched the attack on cigarette smoking in a series of press 
interviews and followed with a brochure quoting miscellaneous persons 
who thought as he did, and containing the promised Edison warning: 

"The injurious agent in cigarettes comes principally from the 
burning paper wrapper. It has a violent reaction on the nerve centers, 
producing degeneration of the brain-cells, quite rapid among boys. 
Unlike most narcotics this degeneracy is permanent and uncontrollable. 
I employ no one who smokes cigarettes." 

And Ford himself told the press : 

"Study the history of almost any criminal and you will find an 
inveterate cigarette-smoker." 

He was not without allies. Reform was in the air. The General 
Federation of Women's Clubs was fearful of the dissolution of the re 
public through joy and saw the tango and hesitation waltz rotting away 
the nation's foundations. In 1904 a woman had been arrested on Fifth 
Avenue for smoking in an automobile. As late as 1914 an excited voice 
informed a Rochester, N. Y., newspaper that if a reporter would come 
with all speed he would see Irene Castle smoking a cigarette in the holy 
Pompeian Room of the Seneca Hotel, which never had been so dese 
crated, and reporters rushed to see the orgy of the danscuse who was 
the toast of the day. 

Cigarette smokers drifted to saloons, espoused crime as a natural 
next step, wound up with lungs riddled that was the majority think 
ing of the time. Many persons regarded cigarettes in much the way 
horses looked upon Mr. Ford's early cars. Ford not only gave heed to 
Edison's laboratory findings but he leaned to the view, and stressed it, 
that die boy who smoked not only fell to pieces prematurely but reached 
the unrelishable foldup by a standard route through poolroom, saloon, 
jailhouse and asylum, in that order. 

He called to his troops such diverse bedfellows as Hudson 
Maxim, the munitions maker, who said cigarettes produced "invalids, 
criminals and fools" but omitted mention of graves dug by gunpowder; 
John Ruskin, who once observed that people erred in spending pains 
on the fallen instead of helping people not to fall; Marshall Field 
and John Wanamaker; a teacher of short-hand at Ann Arbor and a 
W, C. T. U. president in Georgia; a Pittsburgh company which said 



HE SADDLES A WHITE HORSE 27 

stoutly it would hire no cigarette "fiend"; the Larkin Soap Co. of 
Buffalo, employing no habitues, and an official of Cadillac Motor Car 
Co. who came up with the scientific statement that cigarette smokers 
were looser in morals and more apt to be untruthful than non-smokers. 

Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics and Grantland Rice, 
sports columnist, did testimonials intimating that the boy who used 
cigarettes hardly would live long enough to clear the bases with a lusty 
triple, and there must be some confusion today among those who 
accepted the theory at sight of Mr. Mize of the Giants and Mr. Ted 
Williams of the Boston Red Sox, holding packages of cigarettes aloft 
on a magazine cover as if they were baseballs and they were calling the 
ump's attention to the fact that someone had sneaked in a spitter all 
in behalf of the right combination of the world's best tobacco. 

"Let us see" Ford sounded an economic threat as well "whether 
an American boy can afford to ruin his prospects by doing those things 
which are disapproved by employers generally. If millions of American 
men have convinced themselves that cigarettes are good for them they 
have not succeeded in convincing employers of the fact." 

His paternalism flexed its biceps. His $5 day was conditioned 
on certain behavior patterns. Now there was an indication that one 
who smoked cigarettes might be industrially ostracized and his bread 
and butter taken from him if he persisted. Seats on the bus to Valhalla 
were to be had but Ford fixed the rates and set the route. He did not 
spar with midgets. His opponents were usually full size. A very red 
Percival S. Hill, of the American Tobacco Co., was head of the cigarette 
interests and came out slugging. 

"Our experiments," he said stiffly, "show the cigarette to be 
absolutely harmless." 

Ernest G. Liebold, Ford's general secretary, salted Mr. Hill's 
wounds by retorting that if his scientists had failed to find an injurious 
substance in cigarettes Mr. Edison deserved the nation's thanks for 
being the first to discover it. 

Mr. H. hinted darkly of a suit for slander. "The cigarette," he 
trumpeted, "contains less nicotine than any other tobacco product. Its 
temperate use is in no way hurtful to normal users." 

Mr. Ford's friends considered "temperate" and normal" weasel 
words which admitted a doubt in Mr. Hill's own mind of the wisdom 
of excess* 



28 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

The cigarette, the tobacco kingpin said, was a favorite smoke of 
doctors and he thought that common sense would convince any reason 
able man that "cigarettes are not harmful or so many men of all types 
would not be smoking them/* 

"I ask you to point out what beneficial effect has come to anyone 
by indulgence in the habit," Liebold struck back tartly. 

It was not unusual for Ford to fire the first arrow and then pass 
the bow and quiver to someone else. Mr. Ford was unfortunately ab 
sent from the city, his secretary wrote, and this and only this explained 
why Liebold wrote in his stead. As a matter of fact, Liebold spoke a 
sentence that was meant to be soothing. Wasn't Mr. Hill getting un- 
warrantedly excited since Mr. Ford was only interested, after all, in 
arresting the spread of cigarette-smoking among youth of the land? 
The day's youth being the morrow's market, Hill ground his teeth 
after that and in a dudgeon tossed cartons out his office window on the 
heads of delighted passersby. 

Later Ford was to bring to his enterprises the better feathers of 
promotion and the zeal of an evangelist. He would be as sure of his 
virtue and motive as he was that no automobile compared with his and 
never would. In his brief bout with tobacco, of course, he may have 
been discouraged by an error in timing he could not foresee. A young 
Bosnian named Princips in Serajevo shot an archduke two months 
later; Wilhelm of the Germans was soon marching on Liege and 
Verdun, and no one cared if Henry Ford smoked cigarettes or not or 
whether they contained acrolein or mayonnaise. The anti-cigarette 
drive, after all, seemed no more than a range-finder for bigger things 
to come. 

About all he had to show for it was an exhortative quatrain by 
one Captain Jack Crawford, "poet scout." 

* 

Arouse in the hearts of the masses a feeling; 

"Twill stir them to action with never a stain 

Of nicotine fingers our boys are revealing 

As index to stunted tobacco-dulled brain. 

"The Case of the Little White Slaver," his major work on the 
subject, gathered dust. Mr. Ford turned to a peace ship, Eagle boats, 
a joust with the Chicago Tribune for calling him an ignorant idealist* 



HE SADDLES A WHITE HORSE 29 

ran for the U. S. Senate, made the company all his own by buying out 
all the minority stockholders. 

It never was safe to assume, however long the lull or whatever 
his new direction, that he had ever permanently pigeon-holed a prefer 
ence to which he once committed himself. His memory was tenacious 
but it was easy to be misled by a surface indifference into thinking he 
had forgotten or to be deceived by a casual remark into believing he 
had changed his mind. 

An absent-minded visitor took a cigarette from a case while 
talking to him some fifteen years later and put it between his lips. He 
snapped open his lighter and his hand was following the cigarette up 
when he stopped. There was an embarrassed pause. He removed the 
cigarette and closed the lighter. 

"Sorry, Mr. Ford," he excused himself quickly. "I had forgotten 
you do not allow smoking in the plant." 

Ford had the look of a man to whom this came as a tremendous 
surprise. He said it was news to him, in fact. 

"We haven't issued any such order, have we?" He turned to a 
secretary in the room. 

The secretary hardly could say anything td this but that he had 
not heard of any such rule. The guest lighted his cigarette. Mr. Ford 
merely may have been trying to put a visitor at ease; it could not have 
been that he did not know that smoking by employees in his plant was 
rigidly tabooed upon his orders. 

A magazine writer brought up the subject another time but Ford 
disclaimed any desire to have people stop drinking or smoking on his 
say-so. 

"I smoke," the writer announced, a little on the defiant side. 

"Well, you don't look as if cigarettes hurt you," Ford conceded. 
"Some people don't get hurt. Take me I don't smoke or drink but 
that doesn't mean I'm right," he said with beguiling humility. "If it 
doesn't hurt you why should you quit?" 

Lightning struck the Highland Park plant without advance 
warning. Long after Ford's first outburst executives there continued to 
smoke. The boss gave most of his time to the Rouge and the tractor 
plant some miles away and appeared no more than twice a year at the 
scene of his early victories. The catch was that no one was sure when 
he would look in. Five years passed. Apparently the assumption was 



30 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

correct that cigars were not on the proscribed list. They had not been 
mentioned in the early philippics. 

Lunch was finished and the air was thick with cigar smoke a 
dark noon when Mr. Ford appeared and shaded his eyes with his hand 
at the door, in an effort to see through the fog. He finally groped his 
way through the murk to a long table where his executives were sitting. 
He nodded without warmth and sat down. Occasionally he lifted a 
limp hand to fan away the haze. Some of the men at the table tried to 
tamp out their cigars but it seemed only to add to the stuffiness. Ford 
finally stirred and motioned to the manager of the cafeteria. 

"Bring all the cigars you have," he ordered. 

The boxes made a sizable stack in front of him. He pried open 
the lids and dipped in with his lean fingers. He put a handful of cigars 
in each pocket of the two men beside him. He got up and walked up 
and down both sides of the table, cramming the pockets of other execu 
tives until they were a lumpy and puzzled lot cigars in side pockets, 
breast pockets, vest pockets, until the last box was emptied. 

"Now" he panted a little from the performance "I hope you 
have enough cigars to last some time there'll be no more smoking in 
this plant!" 

Smoking stayed out until World War II and its influx of undis 
ciplined labor. With the war, of course, one could walk into any rest 
room and find a score of employees dragging on cigarettes at any time 
of the day and invite a "wildcat" strike by mere mention of the plant 
rule against it. 

The active drive against cigarettes was a dozen years behind 
when Ford made a piece of wheatland into a golf course for his Dear 
born workers. The clubhouse was nearing completion and the question 
of supplies arose. How about cigars and cigarettes ? Someone took up 
the question with Liebold who had charge of the club. He saw no 
objection. The country was legislatively dry so the question o potables 
at the club was settled for it. A decade had gone since Ford and Hill 
had traded punches over cigarettes, and Hebold considered it water 
over the dam, especially in stocking a country club for the usual mixed 
clientele which was seldom one except in search of par. 

The course had a gala opening, duffers 1 tee shots began to find 
the creek on the tenth fairway, a good pro was on the job, members 
were getting the usual quota of eagles and ID'S, and all seemed sportive 



HE SADDLES A WHITE HORSE 31 

and pleasing when male members voted to hold a smoker after a holi 
day tournament. 

The manager had some qualms. "Well never get the smoke out 
of the place," he was afraid, "and if Mr. Ford ever shows up next day 
and gets a smell of it" he shivered at the prospect but gambled 
that the founder, only an occasional visitor, would not pay a visit until 
ventilation had done its work. By midnight of the smoker the interior 
of the clubhouse suggested that four destroyers had passed through 
the rambling rooms and laid a smoke screen. 

Someone peeked in a window or a guest tattled. Ford had a 
limitless army of scouts, some hired for that purpose, some volunteers, 
who considered it to their advantage to keep him alerted. He always 
was turning up with information no one thought he had. Before noon 
next morning a truck from the engineering laboratory rolled up the 
club drive. 

"I'm to pick up all the cigarettes and cigars in the place," the 
driver announced with just the right show of outraged virtue. 

He delivered his load to Liebold's office. 

"Mr. Ford said to put these in the vault," he said. 

A dray-load of tobacco would not be carried down the long 
floor of the laboratory unnoticed and without word spreading. Certain 
executives had as big ears and as many pipe lines as the proprietor. 

The vault doors hardly had swung shut when the secretary had 
a chance caller, Charles E. Sorensen, who bossed the Rouge and 
who after talking discursively for a few minutes got around to ask 
ing, with a slow wink, if it was true that Ernest had some cigars for 
sale. 

Liebold could spare four boxes, yes. Six others to whom the 
underground had carried word of condemned cigars for sale depleted 
the supply further. 

The chauffeur reappeared for the stored tobacco and brought 
word that Mr. Ford wished to see his executives out of doors. While 
they looked on with undetermined private emotions, the seized ciga 
rettes and cigars from the golf club were tossed on a bonfire. 

Only one person was missing. Ford suddenly thought of him. 
When Liebold did not appear, a special messenger was dispatched to 
say that Ford wanted him at once. Liebold was the malefactor, no 
doubt, who had condoned the infamous smoker. 



32 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"Mr. Liebold," the messenger reported back, "has four long 
distance calls waiting and says he cannot possibly come." 

Ford's lips thinned and he went on building his pyre of choice 
tobacco until all of it was consumed. For long thereafter if you played 
golf at Dearborn, you brought your own cigarettes or boned your 
partner and lit up when you were well down the second fairway and 
out of sight of the clubhouse. 

It was always after such strictures that rumors began to circulate 
that Mr. Ford had suffered a change of heart about the club. The place 
probably was going to be transformed into a home for boys or re 
planted to wheat. No one knew how the rumors came into being and 
none of them ever came true. It might have been a disciplinary device. 
He might say or rather, he did say once he only built the place to 
find out how many damned fools he had working for him. But what he 
actually said in driving across the field one day long before the course 
architects went to work was : "Going to build a golf club here. The boys 
need some exercise. It'll do them all good to get out and play." 

But always in him was the conflict of the autocrat and democrat. 
It was possible for the one to provide the club and course; it was impos 
sible for the autocrat to then give the membership carte blanche to use 
them as it wished. He had to impose don'ts. 

A New York lawyer ran abaft the antipathy for cigarette smok 
ers. He had been tentatively selected to head counsel for Ford in a 
$1,000,000 suit and came on for a conference. He happened to be smok 
ing a cigarette and blowing shapely rings when Ford appeared at the 
door and peered in, motioning his secretary to come out into the hall. 
He asked who the smoker was. 

"Get rid of him," said Mr. Ford. "I don't want him. Smokes like 
a fish!" 

Of a top official who left him he was to say he wanted to get 
rich too soon and could not stop smoking. 

Two now famous medical men were among early members of the 
Ford Hospital staff, They had sleeping rooms in a building on the 
grounds above a small employee cafeteria. At the time, the establish 
ment was run by a martinet to, whom any Ford order was holy writ, 
but he found Doctors on the non-conformist side and difficult as a class 
if anyone tried to dictate personal habits. In the privacy of their rooms 
the two paid no attention to the prohibition against smoking. They 



HE SADDLES A WHITE HORSE 33 

did not notice that stubs tossed from their windows landed in plain 
view on a small roof below, or if they saw it they did not care. The 
evidence caught the eye of the watchful myrmidon. 

"Whose room is that?" He pointed to the windows from which 
the butts must have been thrown to land as they had. He stomped up 
the stairs to nip the insurrection in its incipience. 

Did the doctors make a practice of smoking in their rooms? 
Yes. Didn't they know that smoking was tabooed on company property ? 
This was not company property. The supervisor lifted an eye. What 
was it? 

"This," said one physician, the slower-spoken, "is my home." He 
indicated his books and pictures, remembrances of medic days, family 
photographs. "I have smoked in my home since I was eighteen and" 
he spooned out the words as if they were carbolic "I expect to smoke 
in my home whenever I wish." 

The rise of the masses was a little unsettling. Mr. Ford's spokes 
man could not think of an immediate or sufficient answer. He retreated 
and the doctors congratulated themselves on a blow struck for freedom. 

Dinner in a lovely room was ending. Coffee was being served. 
The President of the United States turned his head and exchanged 
some pleasantry with an old man beside him, Thomas Alva Edison, 
about to speak at Dearborn on a national hook-up on the fiftieth anni 
versary of the birth of the electric light. 

Army planes flew the night above the banqueters in tribute. The 
historic scene of a half century before yyas minutely reenacted in the 
original laboratory by the original workers with the original imple 
ments. Everything to the last fuse was the same except for the age of 
the participants, their hair grayed, their faces gullied by the years. It 
was Henry Ford's way of honoring the genius of Menlo Park who had 
so many inventive firsts to his credit. 

The program missed at only one other point. Herbert Hoover 
was to have been driven behind a team of horses through Greenfield 
Village. The Secret Service thought the horses might run away and 
would not allow him to take the chance. Back in 1907 Theodore Roose 
velt had wanted to ride in an automobile from railroad station to a 
Milwaukee hotel and the Secret Service detail said no then an auto 
mobile might explodel 

Chairs were pushed back for the speaking. Through far doors 



34 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

glided waiters bearing trays of cigarettes and cigars. They were heading 
for the tables when a horrified major domo, halfway down the floor, 
flew down. 

"No, No, NO!" he hissed, interposing his bulk between the 
waiters and the speakers' table. He waved them back and they went, 
reddening. When the diners went for hats and sticks at the end of the 
evening's program, tobacco was stacked on side-tables and one could 
take his choice of cigarettes or cigars to smoke on the way home. 

Mr. Ford had ordained, consistently, that there was to be no 
smoking at the anniversary celebration. Had not Mr. Edison told him 
around a Florida shore fire sixteen years before that acrolein lurked in 
cigarettes? Nothing had occurred in the meantime to make Ford 
change his hostility to them. If guests must smoke they could do so off 
the premises. 



In one of the nolole ventures 
of his age a mocked peace 
maker sets out to end a war 
with cat-calls whistling in the 
rigging. 



CHAPTER IV 
THE LONELY BUGLER 



n " ~|"" ENRY FORD released a dove in the second year of World 
War I in the engaging belief that it might be able to fly and 
be seen above the sundering barrages of the Continent. It 
1 somehow might start men to thinking soberly in trench and 
chancellery on the superior boons of peace. 

The voyage of the Oscar II, his peace ship, was an arresting idea 
but it violated all tradition. In war it was not permissive for an indi 
vidual to so express himself. It brought down upon him the notable 
ferocity of non-combatants and the ragings of a press that by emphasis 
in wrong places made him out a mischievous witling. Naturally derisive 
were those who, if the United States was eventually embroiled, would 
participate only orally in what bayoneting had to be done. 

Funnybones tickled, a great many people regarded as quixotic 
this Middle West archer, his arrows and his quaint idea that in a time 
of insanity and before being borne down by it, there might be a chance 
to do something and not wait until one side or the other lay decimated 
and unable to rise for another solitary shot. 

He thought he could advertise a world into peace as others in 
years to come would try to advertise it into prosperity by glib talk of a 
multiplicity of chickens in a pot, a profusion of cars in every garage. He 
was less nonsensical than the Class of 1930 trying to make out there was 
no depression by merely repeating over and over that there wasn't and 
talking of good times around the corner. 

35 



36 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

There might have been no peace ship if a young newspaper man 
had not known a few things about Italian clocks and if a second had 
not been assigned to hunt up Ford and ask about rumored plant 
extensions. 

Since the second young man never had met Ford, getting to him 
was supposed to take some doing, and since the expansion was in the 
whispering stage, the editor had little idea Mr. Ford would talk if seen. 
What he wanted mainly was to break up a poker game in a corner of 
the local room before someone walked in and asked if he did not have 
something better for his reporters to do, and if not had he not better 
fire some of them, and so on in the manner of periodically reformative 
publishers. 

Instead of not finding Ford, the young reporter was knocking on 
his front door in no time, and a houseman was mumbling something 
about Mr. Ford not being home. The reporter said it was important 
that he see him, and the Filipino was repeating what he had said in the 
first place, and the reporter was asking, splenetically : "Are you sure, 
Bud?" when there were footsteps inside and a voice said, "I'll see the 
gentleman." It was easy as that. 

Ford told what he had in mincl at the Rouge and later suggested 
a turn in the garden. He did not say so at the time but somewhere 
along the way he decided to admit this new companion into his fold of 
favorites. It gave him two press proteges who quickly became known 
in the trade as Ford's white-haired boys because of the opportunities 
they had to talk to him when no one else could. 

Their names were Ralph L. Yonker, now retired from the public 
relations field, and Theodore L. Delavigne, deceased, and their names 
are given here because in writing of the automobile magnate later, many 
writers lazily referred to the names of the pair as having been lost in 
history. For what they may mean to history the names are Yonker and 
Delavigne. 

Ford talked to one today and the other tomorrow, and to each 
he might give an exclusive story which he would not mention to the 
dther. He was long partial to this practice, as he was to playing com 
pany executives against one another, so that no reporter ever could be 
sure of wakiag in the morning and not finding a rival had skinned the 
pants off him. 

When Ford completed the stroll in the garden and Yonker had 



THE LONELY BUGLER 37 

the story o the Rouge development buttoned up, his host said if the 
reporter wished to reach him in the future at odd hours here was his 
unlisted telephone number. For months he was the one street man in 
newspaper row who knew how to reach Ford directly at any time, a fact 
which was to play a part in the sailing of the Oscar II and the peace 
mission. 

Delavigne first impressed Ford by remarking on a clock in the 
manufacturer's office. 

"Lot of handwork; must be Italian," he ventured. 

"How did you know?" Ford asked, surprised and noticing the 
newsman had called the make at thirty feet. 

The reporter said he had known an Italian in Baltimore who ran 
a jewelry store and had a fine collection. He told Ford of the curiosa 
in the collection, and from then on enjoyed a special niche in Ford 
affection, tramping the fields with him, coming and going at the plant 
much as he pleased. 

His editor suggested one August afternoon in 1915 that he drop 
in on his friend Ford and see if he could dig up a Sunday piece and 
Delavigne obliged handsomely. The two prowled about the woods of 
the budding estate. Ford discoursed on the birds about them, then the 
war and the youth dying in it. News in 1915 had not been good the 
torpedoed Lusitania, the first gas at Ypres, and the previous day the 
sinking of the Arabic. 

"I'd give all my money and my life to stop it." Ford turned to 
the reporter. 

"That is a lot of dough," estimated the reporter. He blithely de 
valuated the offer of his life which Ford made to boot. "How about 
quoting you?" 

Ford said to go ahead. 

"What shall I say?" 

"You know how I feel," Ford said. "You say it for me make it 
as strong as you like." 

At his typewriter Delavigne took Ford at his word. Here was 
aa incomparable liberty to do a philippic on war and dedicate the 
tremendous Ford fortune to stamping it out. The reporter fell in love 
with his words, even with some flabby cliches, for five columns. It was 
red meat and anti-war. It appeared under his by-line on August 22, 1915, 
and was dressed up with a head which read: 



38 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

HENRY FORD TO PUSH 
WORLD-WIDE CAMPAIGN 
FOR UNIVERSAL PEACE 



Will Donate Life and Fortune to 

Combat Spirit of Militarism 

Now Rampant. 



Scores Hypocrites Who Pretend to be Religious 
Yet Foster War for Sordid Gain. 



Ford's wealth was to be given to stamping out militarism "and 
to challenge the American who would cry for more armament for his 
country." From there on was a heavy top-dressing of such expressions 
as "wasteful war/' "the spirit of militarism," "fake glory," "cloak of 
murder for centuries," "foul sustenance," "shot and shell," "vampire- 
like traders," "chains of greed," "damnable aims," and "suicidal mili 
tarism." Between the lead and concluding paragraph, Ford was quoted 
as saying: 

"War is murder desolating, destructive, cruel, heartless and un 
justifiable. 

"Paper invasions of the United States are high-sounding non 
sense. 

"If we had had an army equal in size to those of military Europe 
we would have been constantly at war. 

"In all the history of civilization I find no man who has justified 
it or who did not publicly brand it as the work of Cain. 

"If Germany wanted a place in the sun she could have bought 
colonies at a fraction of the cost in blood and treasure she is paying. 

"The United States has spent a billion dollars on an army and 
navy to cope with an invasion that has never occurred and never will 
occur. The building of armament by the U. S. is wasteful and war-breed 
ing. 

"Nothing would give me more satisfaction than to bring to an 
end the 6,000 years of this unjustified hatred, ruthless waste and murder. 

"If I can but see the world moving toward a day when wars shall 
cease, I will be ready to end my days where I began a humble worker 
in a peaceful world. 



THE LONELY BUGLER 39 

"Millions of young men are being torn from a life that is theirs 
by right of birth and driven to slaughter by a system of murder. 

"The advice of militarists as to the need of a vast army and navy 
is about the same as the advice of gamblers would be in framing civil 
law. 

"We have 145,000 of our best men in the armed forces who pro 
duce nothing and who are as much a burden to the country as the insane 
and poor would be under national supervision. When forest fires were 
raging in Michigan a few years ago, none of them could be spared to 
save the region. 

"Militarism draws its foul sustenance from the blood, labor and 
toil-earned goods of common people. 

"The yells of the few who want war for their own gain seem to 
prevail merely because they make more noise than those who abhor it. 

"It is a pity that most men who pose as standing for the best 
things and pray in the churches to God for peace on Sunday are busy 
Monday getting contracts to make shot and shell to destroy the loftiest 
things in the world human life, happiness and prosperity." 

A voice with some anguish in it spoke on Delavigne's phone a few 
days later. 

"That you, Mr. Delavigne?" it asked. "This is Henry Ford. You 
had better come out here and see me." 

Ford led the way when the reporter arrived. He opened a door 
and pointed a finger. "You got me into this you'd better go back to 
your office and resign. Then come and get me out of it." 

The room from floor to ceiling was packed with mail-bags. 

"We've opened some of them," Ford frowned. "All tell me how 
to stop the war." ' 

Delavigne quit his newspaper and went to burrow in the mount 
ing mail and set aside for Ford's eye any ideas which seemed to have 
some reasonableness. 

On an afternoon several weeks later the city desk yelled over to 
Yonker, of the Detroit Journal, that the Corner Room wanted to see 
him, and he walked into the managing editor's office to meet Mme. 
Rosika Schwimmer, European pacifist, pamphleteer and correspondent 
for several Continental newspapers. To Yonker the name meant next 
to nothing. 

"Ralph," the editor said, "Madame Schwimmer needs some help 



40 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

and I think she may have a case. Sit down and let her tell you about 
it." 

Mme. Schwimmer had come to interest Ford in organizing a neu 
tral conference for continuous mediation which would offer its offices 
to the belligerents. When she arrived he was on the West Coast. His 
local spokesmen were uncommunicative. Now she heard he was back 
and she had been told there was a Journal reporter who had access to 
him. Could he arrange a meeting? 

Rosika Schwimmer was virtually unknown in Detroit. She was 
variously described in speaking appearances in the city as "Miss Schwim 
mer of Austro-Hungary" and "Mme. Schwimmer, a Budapest house 
wife." One paper, presumably to point up a homebody quality, said 
gracelessly that to see her was to be reminded of a "crock of cookies in 
the pantry." At least, there was nothing in her of a playgirl perched on 
starboard rail with skirt hitched up for cameras. She wore high-but 
toned shoes, cotton stockings, and was the cartoonist's conception of the 
suffragette of the time, but she had not come to sell sex or feminism but 
a plan for peace. 

The Budapest Jewess had lived a life remote from cookies in any 
pantry. She had been press secretary of the Woman Suffrage Alliance of 
London, lecturer for the International Malthusian League, editor of a 
political magazine, speaker before the International Congress of Women 
at The Hague, which had taken favorable action early in the spring on 
her mediatory proposal. Because she was an enemy alien the Congress 
named her to sound out neutrals and asked Chicago's Jane Addams to 
designate a group of women to see how belligerents responded to the 
idea. 

She had pawned some personal ornaments to get passage money 
and had tried early in the year to see the President, So had David Starr 
Jordan, president emeritus of Stanford, and Louis P. Lochner, Middle 
West director of the American Peace Federation, with a plan similar 
to Mme. Schwimmer's to invite reasonable peace proposals through a 
conference of neutrals. None of them had any success at the White 
House. 

The Hungarian talked with force of what was going on in 
Europe* As she sat across the desk from Yonker she opened a long black 
bag in her lap and got out a handkerchief. If the contents of the bag had 
measured up to later guesses of romaacing writers, it contained the 



THE LONELY BUGLER 41 

secret plans of the Verdun fortifications, poison, hand grenades, draw 
ings of the Paris siege gun and four German secret agents, but one who 
got a look into it said it held only the usual feminine miscellany, aside 
from a few papers. 

"All the war-run nations have wanted to quit for some time," 
Mme. Schwimmer declared. "Because of the codes of military honor they 
cannot they must go on blood-letting until one is exhausted." 

She asked the reporter if he had seen a piece in this very day's 
paper. A clergyman was saying the war had brought out in men the 
ideal of Christ's teachings death for a cause. 

"To die for a cause, yes," she differed resolutely, "but not to kill 
for a cause." 

"Hold it just a minute," Yonker went to an adjoining room and 
telephoned Ford of Madame, her background, briefly of her proposal. 

"What do you think of her?" Ford asked, warily. He had been 
beleaguered by persons with sure-pop plans. 

"I believe she knows what she's talking about, Mr. Ford," the re 
porter responded. "At least she has bona fides from good men abroad. 
She hasn't shown them to me but she wants to show them to you." 

Ford said to bring her to the factory next day but Mme. Schwim 
mer sat down to a luncheon table of extremely skeptical and unsold 
senior executives of the company, except for the man who had invited 
her. They felt that running an automobile plant was a job in itself, with 
little left-over time for outside didoes. Schwimmer? Never heard of her. 
What was this a touch? Why should Ford mix in it, -anyhow? They 
were coldly polite. 

She said she had come to lay her reports before Mr. Ford what 
he did then was up to him. She described horrors she had seen, her 
visits to various chancelleries. One could not get the truth about the war 
except at first hand, she said, since one got only what the censors passed. 
Communiques were technical ground lost or gained, prisoners or 
booty taken. If any nation said it was exhausted and wanted to quit, 
the others would smash it to bits. If any one said: "Look here! We have 
the means to continue indefinitely but we think the slaughter useless 
and well stop if you will," the others would say it was trying to dictate. 
Those fighting the war, Madame said, could not end it because of artifv 
cial obstacles they had raised in their own path. 

She would place before Mr. Ford private memoranda of some 



42 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

dozen statesmen, including Bethmann-Hollweg, the imperial German 
chancellor; Grey of England and Viviani, the French minister, as proof 
they were not averse to conciliatory efforts. 

Ford's advisers still were wintry, although it did not matter much 
about them. Ford was the one whose "yes" or "no" would stick. 

"I think I'd like my wife's judgment on this," he said. 

He would give Mme. Schwimmer some more time next day but 
could the reporter arrange to bring her to Dearborn the day after 
that to talk to Mrs. Ford and also see his geraniums. 

Less than three weeks later Ford sailed for Christiana but in the 
interim an opposition flung its sharpest knives at his head and swung 
on him its heaviest truncheons. His beau geste was blasted as though a 
major crime was to be done and Ford was made out a credulous rustic 
and enemy of the republic who was being misled into the most appal 
ling of adventures. He thought the way to establish peace was to end 
war. He found that after a war started you couldn't call it on account of 
darkness, no matter how deep the darkness grew. 

President Wilson refused to commit himself to neutral mediation, 
It would tie his hands if a better plan presented itself; glacially Ford 
announced he would go it alone without White House blessing. 

Chartering a boat was not in his mind when he left home. The 
idea was tossed out by Lochner the day of his arrival in New York and 
it hardly hit the table before Ford caught it up. 

"Just the idea," he greeted it. There was nothing abstruse about 
a transatlantic liner. It was quick action. It was dramatic. The proposed 
mediation might be nebulous, but a ship carrying a gallant company 
and defying torpedoes was meaty, and he could sink his teeth into it* 
"Get the steamship companies on the 'phone!" 

He summoned the press. "I want to crush militarism and stop 
wars for all time," he announced, "I intend" the slogan-writer in him 
coined a phrase which became celebrated "to get the boys out of the 
trenches by Christmas," 

He had been advised the warring nations were not unfriendly to 
the plan of a neutral parley. He had arranged for a ship to take plenipo 
tentiaries to Europe, The Scandinavian-American Liner Oscar II, now 
west bound and 1,600 miles off Ambrose Light, had been engaged. It 
would be equipped with the longest gun in the world Marconi wire 
less so the world could be told of the ship's progress, Twenty thousand 



THE LONELY BUGLER 43 

dollars had been set aside to inspire and reprint and circulate anti- 
preparedness speeches on the floor of Congress. Invitations were wired to 
a preliminary list o 125. The sailing date was only ten days away. It 
was short notice for those he invited. Ford apologized, but it could not 
be helped. 

He set up his fiery cross against war and in no time the opposi 
tion was playing a powerful hose upon it. Trivia were blown into serious 
incidents. The extraneous was starred. He was peppered with loaded 
questions. The rumor mill ran twenty-four hours. The daffy gathered 
and many persons sympathetic to the expedition drew off, daunted by 
the bedlam. There was a tendency to judge the venture by the lunacy 
of the more pestiferous spectators. 

It was reported that the State Department would refuse passports. 
It was said Copenhagen might not confirm the arrangements made for 
the ship by its Manhattan office. It was asserted the bar and smoking 
saloon of the Oscar would be boarded up because Ford did not smoke 
or drink and had ordered it done. Headquarters were dubbed the "Stop 
the War" suite. A crate of live squirrels arrived at the Hoboken pier 
where the peace ship had berthed. It was reported that William Jennings 
Bryan would be "first mate," although the Nebraskan did not make the 
voyage. 

Ante-room loiterers who never got to see Ford were solemnly in 
terviewed, including a lady who had inherited a medical formula of 
"great curative value" and who wanted to give it to passengers on the 
Oscar, soldiers in the trenches or just anyone it was never wholly clear 
who was to get a shot of the miracle drug. A minor Sorbonne professor 
on a docking ship said he was sure none of the brave Allies would listen 
to Ford. 

Special cables under London date said the American colony was 
"mortified." Precisely who was mortified was not plain, but among them 
was a "prominent" English peace advocate who apparently was calling 
that day on the American colony, an unidentified member of the Amer 
ican Society of London, who said he hoped the Oscar would meet a 
German sub, and a member of the American Luncheon Club, also un 
named. One was justified by the anonymity of the mortified in asking 
if an American editor, not quite in his right mind, was paying cable tolls 
for this truck or was saving the charges of transmission by inventing it 
in his home office. 



44 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

An anonymous correspondent said no one could fool him. The 
peace ship was the brain child of Mme. Schwimmer and an unidenti 
fied teacher of German who was engaged to a German officer in active 
service. The New York Times reached back in the files and found, sure 
enough, that Mme. Schwimmer in an interview in March that did not 
stir a ripple had pleaded for a ship to be ready to sail in the spring of 
1915. What this had to do with the merit or demerit of a Neutral Con 
ference for Continuous Mediation was hazy, 

A former pastor of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, New York, 
who had accepted an invitation to sail, was not recognized by a sentinel 
at a meeting room door and flounced off in a miff, declaring he did not 
care, really, if he went on the boat or not. Luckily he was overtaken 
and an apology offered but it made a merry stickful of type. 

A Ford aide got beyond his depth. When Ford was asked if Mr. 
Bryan would be invited to sit in the peace congress if one was formed, 
an assistant intercepted the question and had an impolitic answer. 

"Not if we can help it," he said, positively. 

The next quarter hour was spent in explaining that the assistant 
had completely misspoken himself. 

Actors wanted to ship and entertain the passengers. A solicitous 
Pennsylvania chief of police offered to finger-print the entire mission. 
Nice to have if the Oscar hit a mine. The Secretary of State, to pur 
ported queries from overseas, stated the pilgrims had no official 
status, 

Theodore Roosevelt regarded the venture as "discreditable" but 
he also was punching William Howard Taft and the League to En 
force Peace and saying that most of its leaders were "foolish peace 
prattlers/* A prime minister of Queen Victoria said there was about 
to sail for England "a vessel propelled by a gentleman named Ford, 
said to be a manufacturer of perambulators," and apparently consid 
ered himself a card. The London Times guessed the motormakcr was 
making the trip to sell cars and regarded his followers as busybodies in 
search of notoriety. 

The Logan Act was dusted off. Ford was not the first to distrust 
diplomats and heavy curtains on the windows. When a three-man com 
mission visited France in 1798 to protest interference with American 
shipping by French privateers and it came back with a report that it 
could get no satisfaction, a Philadelphia Quaker, Dr. James Logan, de- 



THE LONELY BUGLER 45 

termined son of a peace-loving father, cocked an eye and had an idea 
that the true views of the majority of people in the United States had 
not been properly set forth by its legates. 

The clouds seemed to be darkening and Logan didn't like war 
in his day any more than Ford did in his. The Quaker certainly did 
not wish war with France but he thought some men in the United 
States did. So Logan had an unorthodox idea. He would go to Europe 
on his own hook and satisfy his suspicions. He sought out Thomas 
Jefferson and asked only a letter certifying to his own American citi 
zenship, and Jefferson gave it to him. 

"I want to know, Mr. Jefferson," he said, "if the attitude of the 
French had been misrepresented. I think the great majority of people in 
this country do not want a war with France and that France does not 
want war with us." 

The Quaker physician had no such grandeur as a special ship. 
He bought his own ticket, traveled alone, went to Paris, saw Talley 
rand without difficulty, and returned certain of the pacific intentions 
of the Directory. 

Official Washington looked with dismay and shudderings on 
such impertinent meddling. It was a political trick, it said, to embarass 
the administration of John Quincy Adams. Logan called on George 
Washington and stated his case to a cold general. He found Federalist 
doors tightly closed but he was pertinacious and people outside Wash 
ington listened to him. Some historians credit him with reversing pub 
lic opinion and averting a break with the French. 

Congress took care of the upstart Logan. The one-man mis 
sion resulted in legislation making it a criminal offense, punishable by 
fine and imprisonment, for a private citizen to engage thereafter in 
diplomatic negotiations without official license. This may have satis 
fied political opponents and the traditionalists but it did not please the 
galvanized citizens of Pennsylvania. They proceeded to name Dr. 
Logan to represent them in the United States Senate. 

By a singular coincidence newspapermen simultaneously stum 
bled at the same hour of the same day in 1915 on an unnamed authority 
who knew all about the Logan Act, and soon the public was led to 
infer that Henry Ford might be put in jail for several years and be 
fined if he transgressed the statute. Mention of the public support given 
Dr. Logan by wounded Pennsylvania citizenry and his subsequent 



46 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

election to the United States Senate was omitted, for some reason, from 
all predictions of Mr. Ford's possible fate. 

Two Ford supernumeraries ran out of the base paths at this 
time. A cablegram over his name to the Vatican and bespeaking Papal 
good will was negligently addressed not to Benedictus XV but to 
Benedictus VII, dead some 900 years. A second headquarters man an 
nounced to the press that Belgium would prefer to see the war end 
than to have British and French armies travel its length in a liberating 
push, and that anyway Germany did not want Belgium. 

"Who told you?" the Fourth Estate promptly asked. 

The spokesman did not have a quick answer and shifted ground. 
He finally said he, for one, was for Germany getting a little chunk of 
Belgium if she wanted it and if it would bring the end of the war 
nearer. 

"What chunk?" the reporters pressed, but at this point came 
some interruption in the quiz. What had been said, however, was 
enough to make front pages to the astonishment of a bewildered Ford, 
who knew nothing of the colloquy or of the misaddressed cable to 
Rome. 

The Ford armor was thick. An occasional arrow found a chink 
but his spirit was unquenchable. His temper never seemed ruffled or 
his hospitality marred by all the punches thrown or the misplays of 
aides-de-camp. The chin squared a little more each time a blow shook 
him. He was just against this game of war the world had always 
played, and even when he turned out Eagle boats in World War I 
and bombers in World War II he remained unregenerate and uncon 
vinced that war was not sanguine business, wasteful, corruptive. 

He drew courage from thousands of letters whose writers saw 
inexpressibly high purpose in what he was doing. Consolingly, too, 
Commoner Bryan stiffened him, "If any of the people on the ArJ( had 
been making money from the flood, Mr. Ford, they would have ridi 
culed Noah for sending his ship out." 

The sensations climaxed with a last-hour dispatch from Detroit 
which Ford repudiated but which could have been true in view of his 
love of staggering statement. It read; 

"Henry Ford said today: 

"The man in the trenches knows for what we are working* He 
is with us heart and soul I have all faith that Christmas will see a gen- 



THE LONELY BUGLER 47 

eral strike that on that day war-worn men will climb out of the 
trenches, throw down their arms and start home. And the military will 
be dead dead for evermore. 

"A general strike on Christmas day is what we want a general 
strike all over the world. I don't care what the critics say. I believe this 
is possible. I have believed other things possible and they were. 

"If men only will see, they can prepare for peace as easily by 
disarming as they prepare for war by arming. What we want is to get 
these men out o the murder ditches and home for Christmas. If the 
warring nations then go back to fighting they are fools." 

The New York Times rated it a box on Page One. Repercussions 
were wide. Dutch "official circles," via London, were quoted as saying 
if Ford based on Holland and interfered with military operations of 
the warring countries he would be suppressed. Ford cabled the foreign 
office of the Netherlands: "The international peace pilgrims do not in 
tend to foment any strike among soldiers in the trenches." His 
"strike" notice had served its purpose it made the headlines. 

Helen Keller, best known of the world's blind, did not join in 
the abuse. Contrarily, she wrote him: "If the expedition aids in bring 
ing the logic of the general strike to the men in the trenches, if it makes 
them understand there can be no war without soldiers, no killing un 
less men will to kill, the great victory of the age is at hand." 

Ford amended his statement about emptying the trenches by 
Christmas. He admitted he did not expect such luck but there always 
was New Year's, Easter, Fourth of July. 

"I realize now we may be staking out the impossible," he con 
ceded, "but if we have a chance in a thousand we'll save thousands of 
boys for countless mothers." 

On the eve of sailing Ford sat on a bed in his room in his shirt 
sleeves and listened to two men beg him to turn back. One was a home 
town banker, the other was the Rev. Samuel S. Marquis, an Episcopal 
dean, who would go with him when he left but who was against going. 
They argued the trip was futile. 

"We tried most of the night to prevail on him to abandon the 
trip," Marquis was to write later after making the crossing and eventu 
ally persuading Ford to quit the expedition. "His reply to me was, It is 
right to try to stop war, isn't it?' To this I could only say 'Yes.' 'Well,* 
he would go on, 'you have told me what is right cannot fail/ And the 



48 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

answer to that that right things attempted the wrong way had no 
assurance of success had no effect. He was following what he called 
a hunch, and when he got a hunch, he generally went through with it, 
wise or foolish, right or wrong." 

Up to embarkation, headquarters typewriters batted out press 
copy "First the European conflict must be stopped; then we must 
take up the fight against the reptile that is creeping through the coun 
try carrying the deceptive and dangerous word 'preparedness' on its 
back." It was not Ford but the Ford ghost wallowing in orchidaceous 
prose. 

So the Oscar stood out on the forbidding Atlantic with a tough- 
minded man who had set himself a fantastic task of ending a war. His 
country had bade him goodby largely with hoots but it did not shrink 
his resolution. He had an idea that the way to establish peace was to 
put an end to war to do something instead of trusting to elocution or 
annihilation. 

The flood of fact and fable flowed on. An English correspondent 
reported Ford locked in his stateroom and chained to his bed. Fights, 
it was said, had broken out aboard. Ford was sick. Where there was 
no story one was manufactured. Before dawn and with his pastor at 
his elbow, he slipped down the back stairs of a Scandinavian hotel not 
long after arrival and shipped for home. His fellow passengers went 
on to The Hague but Ford, although paying the bills, was through. 
The dove of peace fell to earth with a badly broken wing. 

When a magazine writer suggested to him in 1922 that Turkey 
and Great Britain were at odds and he might sound a warning against 
participation by Europe in any more wars, he said that of course there 
would be another European war and "the United States should get into 
it at the beginning and clean them all up," and his editor, on the air in 
'35, was to say, "This is the vigil of Armistice Day. Once again the fear 
of war is in the air. The pacifism of horror is sincere but makes a low 
appeal" 

He never lost his hatred of war even when his factories were 
noisiest in building its weapons, but perversely he dulled in later years 
the high gloss of his abortive venture. I don't think he meant what he 
said. The idealist wanted to appear the canny business man* 

"If we had tried to break in cold into the European market 
after the war it would have cost us $10,000,000,** he said. "The peace 



THE LONELY BUGLER 49 

ship cost a twentieth of that and made Ford a household word all over 
the Continent." 

In My Life and WorJ^ he treated it almost as a youthful pecca 
dillo. He allotted the Peace Ship eleven lines, but he said, wistfully. "I 
think everyone will agree that if it had been possible to end the war in 
1916 the world would be better of! than it is today." 



They make ford fork over 
$19,000,000 and rile him into 
buying out his shareholders 
so no one again can get in his 
way. 



CHAPTER V 
DODGE BROTHERS 



A.ENOWNED trial lawyer pawed the air when court re 
cessed. He rumpled his hair, muttered fretfully to himself 
in the corridor, pursed his lips over the prospect of more 
trouble to corne, and insisted to newspapermen that the 
witness with whom he had been having a trying time was really not 
Henry Ford, as everyone supposed, but Hans Christian Andersen, 
spinner of fairy stories. 

"What you are listening to is an eight-cylinder fable," the wheel- 
horse of the bar mocked. "The witness and Mr. Andersen are one." 

An attendant signalled that court was reconvening. Ford, pass 
ing the group, heard what was said and paused. 

"Not Hans Christian Andersen, gentlemen," he said, his voice 
sandpaper, "but Santa Glaus." 

The lawyer returned to the plaintiffs* table and shuffled through 
some papers. Ford resumed the stand and abstractedly gazed out a 
window behind the jury as if he had closed one eye on the un- 
pleasantry in court and with the other was counting the cars that 
gamboled out there, up and down the earth's highways, with his name 
stamped in their radiators. It was a good sight and made up for these 
minor tiflk 

John and Horace E. Dodge, manufacturers of automobiles them 
selves and owners of a tenth of Ford Motor Company, were trying to 
force Ford to disgorge at least 75 per cent of his accumulated surplus 
in dividends. They also prayed the honorable court to enjoin the 



DODGE BROTHERS 51 

rascally defendant from going forward with certain plant extensions, 
to order distribution of all earnings in the future above what might be 
reasonably required for emergencies and to appoint a receiver, if neces 
sary, to manage the Ford business. It was 1917. 

What Ford meant in comparing himself to Kris Kringle was 
that on a $10,000 investment in his company, paid not in cash but in 
machine work, the brothers Dodge had realized $6,600,000 in dividends, 
$10,000,000 in profits on work they had done for him in their shop, 
and still owned their original shares which they had offered to sell 
him for $15,000,000 in 1914, $25,000,000 in 1915, and $35,000,000 in 
1916. 

Largely on monies paid them by Ford, they had launched the 
Dodge Motor Company, reported making a million a month in net 
profit at the moment. On top of this, Ford was to pay the brothers 
$25,000,000 in 1920 for their stock interest, and the Dodge Company 
itself, four years after the death of the founders in 1921, was to be sold 
to Dillon, Read & Co., New York investment house, for $146,000,000. 

Incidentally, Mrs. Alfred Wilson and Mrs. Hugh Dillman, 
widows of John and Horace Dodge, respectively, and Delphine Dodge 
Cromwell Baker Godde, daughter of John, were three of nineteen 
American women named twenty years later as in absolute possession 
of $25,000,000 or more and an annual income each of $1,000,000. 

Ford considered the claims of the plaintiffs extraordinary. They 
had been made multi-millionaires by the management of which they 
now complained. The record hardly supported the contention, Ford 
thought, that he was a scatterbrain and did not know what he was 
up to. 

What Elliott G. Stevenson, one of Michigan's outstanding trial 
lawyers, meant by reference to Hans Christian Andersen was that he 
personally disbelieved Mr. Ford's testimony on the stand and his answer 
to the bill of complaint to the effect that (i) his profits frightened him 
and were so enormous the public would not stand for them and (2) no 
one had the right to have so much money unless it was plowed back 
into improvement of the product, wage increases and a lowering of 
prices and (3) he had been fighting to hold down profits but it seemed 
to be a problem he could not lick. 

The reaction of Dodge counsel was normal enough. Ford occu 
pied an odd niche in the estimates of contemporaries. When he said 



52 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

he did some of the things he did because he loved mankind and wanted 
to share with it the benefits of his industrial system, critics asked for 
chapter and verse which said anything about a man being in business 
for any other reason than to make money for himself and his stock 
holders. If he said he did the same things because they seemed good 
business, skeptics asked what he knew about business and inferred that 
he was a success only because an inscrutable God held an umbrella 
over him. For anyone in a competitive economy to say, as Ford did on 
the stand, that he never gave much thought to money was insufferable 
fiction in Mr. Stevenson's book. 

What Ford said at times was so opposed to accepted thinking 
and practice that one never was quite sure if here was not a man who 
dearly loved the grandiose and the startling and who, after picking one 
long-shot, had become a confirmed bettor on outsiders. Either that or 
he was a genius with a spark so rare it escaped persons attuned to 
other wave lengths. 

Because he used to pop off strangely and occasionally talk non 
sense on subjects about which he knew little did not invalidate his 
industrial theory, but a great number of people thought it did and 
were led to believe that because he had a periodical blind spot in non- 
manufacturing fields it followed that his excursions from the industrial 
norm also were due to defect in vision. 

As the litigation progressed, however, some of what was said 
proved to be window-dressing. The Dodge brothers, wise and tough, 
were not at law wholly because of doubts of Mr. Ford's ability to do 
what he said he was going to do but because of an anxious belief that 
he might succeed. After all, they were manufacturing an automobile 
not quite in the Ford price class but close enough to be considered, 
competition, and certainly they considered Ford competition. If Ford 
was allowed to put all those profits into fixed capital assets they were 
strengthening a business competitor. 

Mr. Ford, it developed, was not running his business entirely 
on charitable lines, however much tinsel he sewed on the philosophy 
he modeled for the public, but the hardest nut to crack was his practice 
of cutting prices in face of rising demand, selling cars for less than he 
could get for them, and his most recent action o reducing his touring 
car from $440 to $360 after making $60,000,000 in one year at the former 
price and then saying in the press: 



DODGE BROTHERS 53 

"We easily could have maintained our prices for this year and 
again cleaned up $60,000,000 to $75,000,000 (as against an estimated 
$35,000,000) but I do not think it would be right to do so. We cut 
prices and are now clearing $2,000,000 to $2,500,000 a month, which is 
all any firm ought to make maybe more unless the money is to be 
used for expansion. I have been fighting to hold down income right 
along. A man is not a success unless he can pay good wages and clear 
something for himself, but I think these wages should be paid without 
taking them out of the public." 

If Mr. Ford stunned the courtroom at times, there were those 
who were bewildered by paradoxes in the Dodge allegations. They 
argued that Ford policy was dangerous and asked the court to believe 
that if Mr. Ford was not stopped he was going to gobble all the business 
there was in the low-priced field. They argued, in one breath, for dis 
tribution of a succulent dividend of millions of dollars and in the 
next contended that the company should keep a neat surplus as insur 
ance against a post-war slump. 

The suit was filed in November, 1916. Ostensibly it grew out 
of an announcement of vast contemplated expansions by Ford and a 
statement attributed to him that he had decided to stop distribution of 
lavish special dividends $41,000,000 from December, 1911, to October, 
1915 and stick to the regular dividend of 5 per cent a month on the 
capital stock of $2,000,000. 

The decision which caused the first-degree burns was made at 
the end of the fiscal year 1916, when, after 500,000 cars were sold at a 
profit of $6o,ooo f ooo, Ford then forced his directors, in the language 
of the Dodges, to cut the price of the car $80. At this scale-down the 
company would get $40,000,000 less in sales price the succeeding year for 
the same number of cars. He had done this, moreover, when an unsatis 
fied market was calling for cars and not price-cuts, they said, and was 
willing to pay the higher price without protest. 

"You're not satisfied with producing a half-million cars a year?" 
Stevenson asked him. 

"The demand was not satisfied," said Ford. 

"So far as your experience of 1915-1916 is concerned, you had 
good reason to believe you could duplicate that production and sell it 
at the same price the next year, did you not?" 

The witness said that was not Ford policy. 



54 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"You arc satisfied you could do it, aren't you?" Stevenson in 
sisted. 

"No, we couldn't and keep the same price." Ford maintained 
that the old price was too high. What he called his policy, however, 
was a bit of a greased pig. Whether he raised or lowered prices de 
pended, actually, on the exigencies of the times. The price was advanced 
from $360 to $450 in 1918, then to $525, later to $575, before he reversed 
the trend and cut back in November of 1920 to $440. 

"The only thing that makes anything not sell is a too high price/* 
he persisted. 

"Yet you say you could not conscientiously think of making as 
much profit as you were making in 1916, didn't you?" 

He had said in a newspaper interview that he didn't believe the 
company should make such "awful" profits. "Your conscience," Steven 
son hammered away, "would not let you sell cars at the price you did 
last year and make such awful profits. Is that correct?" 

"I don't know that my conscience had anything to do with it," 
snapped Ford. "It wasn't good business." 

"You also said Dodge brothers claimed you ought to continue 
to ask $440 a car and that you did not believe in such exorbitant profits. 
Does that express your sentiments now?" 

"Haven't thought of it since." 

"You don't know now whether these are your sentiments?" 
Sarcasm crept into the examiner's voice. 

"Not altogether." 

"Don't you still think those profits were frightful and not 
right?" 

"Well, I guess I do," Ford agreed. "We don't seem to be able 
to keep profits down." 

Was he trying to keep them down? Was the Ford Motor Com 
pany organized for anything except profits? Ford had an answer for 
that "organized to do as much good as we can for everybody." 

Stevenson asked if Ford knew anything in law that said a 
word about doing good for people in connection with the making of 
automobiles or any other manufacturing business. The witness said 
he did not know anything about the law on many points, 

"You did not object in the beginning to pretty satisfactory 
profits?" 



DODGE BROTHERS 55 

"We needed them." 

"You started in to make money 3 didn't you? That was why the 
company was organized?" 

"I didn't give it much thought. The best way to make money 
in business is not to think too much about making it." 

"But you got a lot of money out of it," Stevenson persisted, "and 
you still do, don't you?" 

Ford said he thought it was just because he didn't have money 
in mind. He was asked for a definition of his business policy, why it 
was being continued, why the facilities were being enlarged. "To do 
as much good as possible for everybody." All right, what did he mean 
by that? 

"Well," he broke it down, "to make money and use it, give 
employment, build factories, and send out the car where the people 
can use it." 

"Is that all?" asked Dodge counsel. "Haven't you said you had 
enough money yourself and you were going to run the company here 
after to employ just as many people as you could and give them all 
the benefits of the high wages you pay, and give the public the benefit 
of a low-priced car?" 

Ford said he supposed he had "and incidentally to make 
money." 

"Incidentally?" barked Stevenson. 

"That's right," nodded Ford. "Business is a service, not a 
bonanza." 

"Your controlling feature, since you have all the money you 
want, is to employ a great army of men at high wages, reduce the 
selling price so that a lot of people can buy your car cheap, and give 
everybody a car who wants one?" 

If he did all that, Ford said, the money would fall into his lap 
couldn't get away from it. Reduction of selling price would insure 
increased efficiency, he said. 

"Just how?" Opposing counsel was at him. The whole factory 
would have to dig for profits, the manufacturer said. But what did the 
whole factory have to do with profits? The employees did not get any 
part of them, did they, so how were they affected by increased or 
decreased profits? 

"They know we've got to have money," Ford responded. 



56 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"Did you tell them they had to hustle more because you had 
reduced the price of the car?" 

He had done that, yes. Stevenson, truculent, said he was not 
satisfied with the answer. He would like an intelligent explanation of 
all this "mumbo jumbo." 

"These men have been hustling all they could, haven't they?" 
The lawyer moved closer to the witness and pointed his bow glasses. 
"Didn't you state that five dollars a day and an eight-hour work day 
made them hustle so they did not have any more hustle left in them 
at the end of that time?" 

Ford said he had not. "What do you know about how they 
hustle?" He turned on his examiner. 

"I am asking you," the lawyer rejoined. "I am not on the witness 
stand. I am not a manufacturer." 

The witness said that was easy to see. 

"And I am not professing, like you, to take care of all the people 
in the world," Stevenson jabbed, ironically. 

Alfred Lucking, Ford's attorney, accused Stevenson of sneering 
at a system that had produced unparalleled results. Stevenson said he 
was not sneering, that he believed Ford a very sincere man in his desire 
to improve the lot of men. Lucking said many people considered liberal 
treatment of public and workers an "enlightened selfishness." Did 
counsel want Ford to squeeze every last dime out of the public and 
his workers? 

"I claim it is his duty," roared Stevenson, "to earn all the money 
he legitimately can for his stockholders." He said Ford had started on 
a hare-brained scheme to spend the money of stockholders in a plan 
that would ruin every man who had an investment in the com 
pany. 

The year 1917, when the suit was tried, the Ford Company made 
more than $52,800,000 and surplus was $131,500,000. In 1925, when 
Stevenson died, the company had net income of $114,451,000, its second 
biggest year; surplus of $600,000,000 and paid $16,401,000 in dividends. 
The chimerical scheme was still going strong. 

The Dodges, ex-bike-makers, decided to void their contract with 
Ford in 1913 and make their own cars. Their personal attorney had 
warned them they might be embarrassed if Ford decided to make the 
parts the brothers were manufacturing for him* 



DODGE BROTHERS 57 

John Dodge laughed at the forebodings. "Don't believe in put 
ting your eggs in one basket, eh?" he responded. "The basket is Ford's 
and the eggs yours," his lawyer countered. "If he tips over the basket, 
what becomes of your eggs?" 

The Dodges took it to heart. They began making their own car. 
Then James Couzens, general manager and another Ford pioneer, 
walked out. The brothers considered him a balance wheel for an 
unpredictable Ford and were uneasy. The situation was not improved 
one morning when Ford visited them, accompanied by C. Harold 
Wills, in charge of manufacturing. The Dodges said it was too bad 
about Couzens quitting Ford said it could not be better. 

"Now we can do the things Couzens stopped us from doing 
double output, halve prices," John Dodge quoted Ford as saying. 

While the testimony was three to one against him, Ford denied 
on the witness stand he had said he did not intend to pay any more 
special dividends and was going to divert to expansion. 

While the regular dividend of 60 per cent annually on the capital 
stock might appear large, the Dodges said it actually amounted to only 
a fraction over one per cent on total capital invested in the business. 
Assets of a company, representative of surplus, were as much the prop 
erty of stockholders, they argued, as assets representing the capital 
stock, and stockholders were as much entitled to a dividend that would 
give them a return on their surplus investment as on their capital stock. 

They had written two letters to Ford and the directors. The 
first suggested the appropriateness of a substantial special dividend. 
The second asked information on rumored expansion. Edsel Ford 
replied for his father that the first letter would be laid before the Board 
but that the answer was probably no, because money was needed to 
go ahead with long-considered developments. 

When the Dodges received no answer to the second letter, they 
filed their complaint declaring the whole purpose of Ford's proposal 
was not to promote the financial advantage of the company but to 
increase the number o cars produced, the number of workers employed 
and furnish low-priced cars to a greater number of people "worthy 
motives but not within the scope of the ordinary business corporation." 

"These are ends to be prosecuted, if at all, by individuals asso 
ciated for that purpose," the bill said. "The whole scheme is to bring 
about such a relationship of wages, revenue and car requirements as 



58 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

to preclude dividends of reasonable return on the face value of the 
stock." 

It asked the court to order payment of a special dividend and 
stop all this risky expansion, since it merely siphoned off into fixed 
capital assets monies which rightfully belonged to stockholders. Ford 
was by way of becoming an octopus, it also was charged, since it was 
plain on the face of it that no competitor making 100,000 cars could 
hope to operate in the same market with a company making a million 
in the same price grouping. This may have been the kernel of the 
litigation the threat to the Dodges' position in the trade. 

Ford and his company said a great deal of this was silly pos 
turing. They denied reckless planning and unlawful investment. No 
injury possibly could come to the Dodge brothers unless it came to 
Ford as well and it was fatuous to say Ford would wreck himself. 
The Highland Park and Rouge expansion plans had been common 
property for a year and since they had raised no objection in all that 
time, Ford thought, the brothers had forfeited the right to object now. 
Expansion and distribution of profits were wholly a matter within the 
powers of the directors and it would be an unconstitutional assumption 
of authority for a court to intervene. As for the charge of monopoly, 
whoever heard of a monopolist, Ford asked, whose sole concern was 
to sell his product at a rock-bottom price? 

Would it be serving the interests of Ford Motor Company to 
hold up its price because another automobile manufacturer wanted it 
to? His every cut, Ford said stoutly, forced competitors to their best 
efforts and highest efficiency and thus produced a competition healthy 
for his rivals and beneficial to the public. 

The original price of the car had been $900. Now Ford had 
pared it down to $360 and up to mid-summer of 1916 the company 
had made and sold 1,272,000 cars. His salary was $150,000 as against 
$3,000 when the company was launched. His own dividends in five 
years had totaled $25,000,000. He and the whole industry had traveled 
far since President Teddy Roosevelt had been praised for bravery in 
riding a horseless carriage, and Chauncey M. Depew, lawyer-wit, ad 
vised a nephew not to put money into Ford's company: "Nothing has 
come along to beat the horse. Buy one and youll have money left over 
to feed him until doomsday," 

Ford had outrun all competitors by never taking his eyes from 



DODGE BROTHERS 59 

the target. Others could have the plush trade. Others had succeeded 
for a time in the lower-priced field and hashed up their careers when 
they got ambitious to make a more sumptuous car that would please 
Mrs. Astor and in which kings might deign to ride. Ford made cars 
for transportation and he did not care who rode in them. 

As a witness he was stubborn, frank, forgetful, apathetic. He 
had a way some thought deliberate of testifying at times in a voice 
audible only to the court stenographer. His memory was not always 
good, although this was not surprising in one who had a mountain of 
detail to sift and purposely forgot as many things as he could, he said, 
to insure room for new business. 

By his own testimony he added confusion. He did not like the 
witness box. It was said in legal circles in later years that the best way 
to win a case from him was to let it be known you would issue a sub 
poena and he would have to appear in person. Nimble-minded lawyers 
became his bete noire. He delighted in startling generalizations, but 
when he teed off on one in testifying, some stony lawyer was always 
pulling him back to the specific. The exchanges between counsel and 
witness were many and gusty. 

A ledger was handed Ford to refresh his mind on a $35,000 real 
estate deaL 

"I don't need it." He frowned at the book. 

"Just take the book." It was handed to the witness. 

"No, I don't need the book at all; just take it along with you." 
Ford put the ledger back on the stenographer's rail. 

"I will get a direct answer from you and don't you forget it," 
Stevenson bristled. 

Ford ^as unresponsive. He said he wouldn't be able to read it. 
Wouldn't be able to read? Couldn't he read? Certainly he was able 
to read sometimes, he added. 

"You can't always? You can read sometimes, you say?" 

"Yes, but not in the dark." 

"Do you consider it dark here now?" 

"No, no." He never took the book. 

His own lawyer would read something to which Ford would 
agree. Opposing counsel would read the same piece and Ford might 
say he did not understand it. 

"Didn't you tell me this was your policy and that stockholders 



60 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

cheerfully acceded to your policy? Didn't you say that just a few 
minutes ago?" 

"I think I did," Mr. Ford would hesitate. 

"Is it true?" 

"True if you want it so." 

"Well/ 5 Stevenson glowered, "it is immaterial to me. You have 
put it so many ways I have lost all interest in which way you put it." 

Ford asked the lawyer to stop "roaring. 5 * He also would say: 
"you've got the books; dig the answer out for yourself," or "separate 
the question so I can understand it." 

"I'm not responsible for your understanding, Mr. Ford." Steven 
son grew wintry. "You can understand plain English language, can 
you not?" 

"You are the only one, I suppose, who can talk plain English," 
parried Ford. 

"No, not the only one, but you seem to be the only one who is 
not willing to understand it," said Stevenson, taking the last poke. 

He asked the witness if it was true that he did not put any 
more money into the company than the Dodges. 

"You started with a model of a car, didn't you? A pretty poor 
model, too, wasn't it?" 

Ford himself had been known to say it wasn't much of a car 
but that "the darned thing ran." This was his privilege but he did not 
like anyone else saying it. 

"It seemed to sell all right and I put fifteen years of work into 
it," he said this time, 

"And who made the first cars?" 

"Dodge brothers made part of them*" The first order was for 
675 chassis. The Ford company at the start was almost exclusively an 
assembling operation. 

"They made the motors and frames they made the whole thing 
except tires and bodies. Isn't that right?" asked Stevenson. 

"From our drawings," Ford flared. He added that the drawings 
were so good any able mechanics could have made the car. 

"Mr. Ford" the attorney addressed himself to the bench "had 
a barn a carpenter shop. The completed car was taken to the car 
penter shop, wasn't it, Mr. Ford, and there the body was put on and 
you sold it? Dodge brothers spent $60,000 to $75,000 to re-equip their 



DODGE BROTHERS 61 

plant to do the work to re-tool They jeopardized everything they 
had." 

"I don't know what," interposed Ford, 

"Well, you didn't have anything to risk, did you?" 

Ford said he gave up his drawings to be manufactured. "And 
the Dodges" Stevenson pursued the subject "gambled with their 
business to undertake the manufacture of an undeveloped car, didn't 
they?" Ford said he had forgotten quite a bit. "You have forgotten," 
rasped Stevenson, "that they produced the cars that brought the money 
to make you a success. There isn't a doubt of it, is there?" 

"No," Ford conceded. 

"You talk as if they were stealing something from you when 
they want a part of what belongs to them," the lawyer lectured the 
witness. "You make out they are ingrates." 

The witness said Alex Y. Malcolmson, coal dealer whose original 
holdings in the Ford Motor Company equaled Ford's at the start, 
guaranteed the Dodges against loss. In the first manufacture of cars the 
Dodges were guaranteed payment by Malcolmson personally. As soon 
as the company was organized it took over this contract. The Dodges 
were not guaranteed against loss on their stock. They gave notes for it 
on which Ford made the payments when they came due and deducted 
the amount from the Dodge account owed by Ford for parts made by 
the brothers. 

Ford said there were no better business men in Detroit than the 
Dodges and he said he would believe them as fast as he would him- 
self. 

"But didn't you mean them when you called stockholders para 
sites in an interview with a Dearborn editor?" he was asked. 

He denied the imputation, "That's a word I picked up from 
John Dodge himself. He always called anyone who didn't work a 
parasite." 

The Dodges reciprocated in a little stingier measure. They said 
they never had, reason to complain about Ford until the last year or 
two. At the time of the suit the Dodge company needed sheet steel in 
a hurry, couldn't find any, and Ford permitted them to draw on his 
supply, 

The industry was never daunted by the unexplored. The history 
of the motor car is one of new processes pulled out of a pond where 



62 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

the irresolute were sure you could fish for months without catching 
anything. 

When Ford had his first blast furnace in mind, experts assured 
him it was absolutely necessary to have a first heating and then to 
reheat and remelt the product. That's the way it always had beea done. 

"Don't believe it," he frowned on these advisers in the steel 
areas. He told his own men that because it hadn't been done was a 
good reason the motor company should try it. 

Ford told Stevenson confidently that it would be quite simple 
to make castings direct from the ore and save the expense of double 
melting, and Stevenson jumped on it as proof of Ford's wilfulness and 
erraticism. 

"Who is doing this sort of thing now?" the lawyer asked. 

'Nobody." 

"And you are going to experiment with Ford Company money 
to do it, are you? You're going to undertake something nobody has 
even tried before?" 

Ford said he certainly was. 

"There wouldn't be any fun for us if we didn't try things people 
say we can't do," he smiled, broadly. 

"At Ford Motor Company expense?" 

"That's all I am working for at present a little fun and to do 
the most good for the most people." 

Ford had a comfortable assurance. He really knew nothing of 
his competitors or how many there were that's what he said. He had 
all he could do to mind his own business. "The minutes spent on other 
people's business we lose on our own/' he put it. Had he given thought 
to whether he could undersell these competitors he said he never con 
sidered? He didn't belong in, business if he couldn't, he said blithely. 
Ford Motor could keep up with competition so long as it worked 
harder than others did. 

If Ford saved some of the money going into fixed assets to meet 
post-war contingencies, that would be more the mark of a prudent 
operator, Dodge counsel suggested to the Court. 

"Mr. Stevenson has forgotten to ask," Lucking donated ironi 
cally, "if you would or would not have money to face this danger he 
foresees if you paid it out ia dividends instead of expansion-" 

"Maybe we could ask the stockholders to give the dividends 



DODGE BROTHERS 63 

back if we needed them," Ford retorted* "How about it, John?" he 
called to the senior Dodge in a chair behind his counsel. Dodge did 
not answer. 

It was from C. Harold Wills, chief of manufacturing, the Court 
got the backstage story of Ford Motor. Success was not merely a matter 
of streams of drive-aways leaving the back door and Ford, doubled up 
happily by the burden, running out the front hourly to bank another 
million. 

Wills had worked with Ford in developing the car three years 
before the incorporation. They had shivered together in an unheated 
loft and when it got too bad they put on boxing gloves and slugged 
each other to keep warm. The trade understood what Wills said if it 
did not always know what Ford was driving at. He put no frosting of 
sentimental motive on the cake. He had advised an increase in facilities 
in order to make more money for the company "that's what we are 
in business for," he flatly said. He dissuaded Ford from lopping $50 
off the price recently "we needed money for expansion.". It netted 
$25,000,000 Ford wouldn't have had if he had pared down prices. Wills 
thought the success of the company lay in the price of the car. 

His testimony was notable in disabusing the public mind of a 
notion that Ford Motor Company ran unoiled and without headache 
or was feverishly eleemosynary. If Ford made the teeth of "practical" 
men chatter, his production chief was no heretic. What was the reason 
for the price cuts that had been made when it had seemed all that was 
necessary was to show the car to sell it? He said: 

1. The car did not have a self-starter and it was necessary to 
keep the price down to market it. If the starter was installed the shop 
would have to be shut down for months. 

2. By keeping the price reasonably close and not earning too 
much the company put itself on a par with suppliers. The company 
could not buy so advantageously if it had excessive profits but asked 
people with whom it did business to trim to the bone. 

' "Is that why you lopped off $25,000,000 in profits deliberately 
as compared with the year before?" asked Stevenson. 

"I think it is nearly that. I think it was deliberate if you want 
to call it that." Wills wagged his head affirmatively. 

Expansion? More space to store and operate in? A huge surplus? 
Why not? Assembly was so integrated that if the company could not 



64 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

deliver completed cars for lack of one of the roughly 3,000 parts, it 
would be only thirty days from the end of its bank balance. Daily cash 
requirements were about $1,000,000. 

If the dividend asked by the Dodges had been granted in the 
fall of 1916, Wills said, Ford would have been a borrower by March, 
1917. Cash had shrunk $22,000,000 by that time. 

Moreover, Ford dealt in cash. He bought at a better price because 
he paid cash. But since he did pay cash he needed a lot on hand. How 
much? Oh, a 50-day supply of $45,000,000 in cash and $35,000,000 
in materials. 

One reason for the shrinkage had been a change in models, of 
course. Everyone knew the first two or three months were a lose-your- 
shirt period and it was hard to get better than 50 per cent of normal 
production. The company made 3,000 cars a day, say very well, 2,000 
were needed to meet running expenses. There just had to be large 
output and good profit to overcome plant investment and general 
overhead. 

Labor and materials were up. Pig iron, now $45, could be had 
last year for $18.90. The company had to take steel bars instead of 
sheet because of diversion of stocks to war uses. Ford also had insuf 
ficient storage space. You always could buy cheaper if you had a large 
reserve stock than by buying at random. The company had to go into 
the open market only recently, Wills mentioned, and pay 10 and u 
cents for steel against a former price of 4 cents a pound. 

It had to shut down departments many times for lack of ma 
terialsthe fender department for two days last week, for example. 
Fires in supplier plants had lost them precious stock and time, and it 
was necessary to send Ford crews to get the fire-struck suppliers on 
their feet and running again as fast as possible. The entire plant last 
winter was within a half hour of complete shutdown. In April it had 
only $19,000,000 in materials on hand. 

The company wanted to build 100,000 trucks this year* It had 
been able to get material for only 10,000, really just a sample for each 
of 9,ooo-odd dealers. No use robbing car production to get truck pro 
duction, or vice versa. 

The sales department said last year it could sell 100,000 closed 
cars, but Ford had been able this year to get no more than 70 bodies a 
day, so the company had to go on making the cheaper car because 



DODGE BROTHERS 65 

facilities did not exist anywhere to provide bodies. The expansion pro 
gram included a body plant. 

The company was buying on the outside a lot of things it would 
make if it had space to manufacture them and a place to store them 
once they were manufactured. It ought to make its own bodies and 
windshields and steel frames. Wills thought. About 75 per cent of parts 
for each car were furnished by outside sources. If the Ford company 
could make more of these, it would save a lot of money. 

When Dodge brothers stopped making transmissions for Ford, 
the Ford company manufactured them for itself at a saving of $9 to $10 
each. 

A special bolt for which the company had paid $41.70 a thousand, 
it now made itself for $8.70 a thousand, saving $582,000 this year. 

The saving on push rods was $17.80, or $153,258 this year. 

The company had saved $86,000 last year by building its own 
front springs. 

Ford testified he paid no attention to competitors. Wills worried 
if Ford didn't. 

"Anyone selling a car under f 1,000 is considered competition," he 
;said frankly. "People hesitate between buying a car at $360 and one at 
$1,000," he told Stevenson. 

Between Ford, Utopian, and Wills, materialist, one had a peek at 
a motor company behind the curtain. 

The decision of the lower court was a sweeping victory for the 
Dodges. It ordered payment of a special dividend of $19,275,960 and 
enjoined the company from increasing its fixed capital assets and from 
.going ahead with its proposed Rouge blast furnaces. 

The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the decree in important 
particulars on February 7, 1919, except that it did not disturb the order 
as to the special dividend. It held that after earnings close to $60,000,000 
in the fiscal year ending July 31, 1916, it was the "duty" of the directors 
to vbte a distribution of "a very large sum of money" to stockholders 
and declared its failure to do so was arbitrary. 

"A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily 
for profit of the stockholders," it held to be the rule. "Powers of di 
rectors are to be employed to that end. Their discretion does not extend 
to a change in the end itself, to the reduction of profits or non-distribu 
tion of them in order to devote them to other purposes." 



66 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

The bench, with an eye on Ford's announcement that he had 
tried to limit profits, remarked there was a signal difference between 
incidental expenditure of corporate funds for the benefit of employees, 
like building a hospital or employment of agencies to better conditions 
of the workers, and a general purpose and plan to benefit mankind at 
the expense of others. 

"It is not within the lawful powers of a corporation" it waggled 
a finger reprovingly at Henry Ford "to shape and conduct a com 
pany's affairs for the merely incidental benefit of shareholders and for 
the primary purpose of benefiting others." 

On all other counts it reversed the lower court. The smelting of 
iron was not beyond the power of a corporation. It found no monopoly. 
The company legally might use unemployed capital for expansion. It 
would not intervene in an expansion program designed to add output 
and profits. 

The company paid off in ten days. Of the $19,275,960, Henry 
Ford himself received $11,179,666 on 58 per cent of the stock, the 
Dodges $1,975,960 on their 10 per cent. 

Ford was free to go back to his drawing board and proceed with 
his blueprints o empire yet not quite. He had to prevent a repetition 
of this challenge to his authority. He tendered his resignation as presi 
dent of the Ford Motor Company and went to California. While there 
he gave out an interview which scared the wits out of some stock- 
holders. He would organize a new company and build a new car! 

He didn't but some of the original stockholders began to lose 
sleep. The Ford company without Ford was unthinkable and frighten 
ing. By sowing uneasiness he hoped to soften shareholders and tfaea buy 
up their interests. He succeeded they sold. 



Being an account of those 
who never lost hold of the 
spun-gold coat-tails, and of 
how a how to superstition cost 
a thirteenth man ^1,755,000* 



CHAPTER VI 

TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 



A DOZEN men in a lamp-lit coal office in 1903 Henry 
Ford brought the philosopher's stone for which other alchem 
ists had hunted in vain for centuries. It transmuted the base 
metal of a motor and an explosion in a small cylinder into a 
icr of gold so swiftly that two or three later confessed they became 
slightly mad over the outpour. 

Some placed their bets with confidence and some with hesitancy. 
Some misread the signposts and got out too soon. Some considered they 
were squeezed out. One died within three years and without realization 
of how good his gamble was. One got in to please his boss and out 
for the same reason. Others stuck until the last hand was dealt, or 
rather until Ford brought out their hats and helped them into their 
coats and said he had decided to play solitaire henceforward, 

A woman with one $100 share was enriched by $95,000 in divi 
dends and sold her holdings, multiplied by stock dispersals, for $260,000 
sixteen years later. It cost a doctor $1,755,000 because the inventor of the 
Ford car thought thirteen incorporators would be unlucky and ex 
cluded him. 

A depositor dropped into the German-American Bank of Detroit 
before the motor company was organized and John S. Gray, the presi 
dent, said he had a good thing for the customer if he had tirac to sit 
down a minute and listen. The banker himself was putting in $10,000, 
He thought Dr. Frederick E. Zumstein could do worse than take a flyer 

67 




68 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

in an automobile company o which a man named Henry Ford was 
to be chief engineer. 

"Well, why not!" exclaimed the physician. "Put me down for five 
shares." He got out a blank check. "You know," he said, quizzically, 
'"we doctors are invariably simpletons in investments." 

The dozen pioneers met a week later and Gray announced that 
besides his own subscription he had $500 in his pocket for five shares 
for the physician. Ford counted those in the room and objected. 

"There would be thirteen of us," he grumbled. 

Enough shared the superstition and the check was declined. 
Gray said he'd explain to the doctor and return the money. They could 
put him down for the shares the physician wanted. The banker died 
three years later and heirs of the Gray estate, selling out in 1919 for 
$26,250,000, got the $1,755,000 the doctor would have received if there 
had been one more or less present at the accouchement in the coal 
office. 

It is hard to figure how many men Ford made rich. To thousands 
all over the earth he brought food, homes, comforts of a wide variety, 
education for their children, jobs with him or in allied industries. He 
provided many executives with yachts and blooded herds and other 
prized paraphernalia of lively living. The seven stockholders who sold 
their holdings to him in 1919 received $105,816,858 to add to dividends of 
millions already paid. The five of the dozen stockholders who got off the 
train early got from 5 to 7 to i. 

Only two were considered moneyed men Gray, the banker and 
first president of the company, and A. Y. Malcolmson, a coal dealer* 
James Couzens was an ex-railroad car checker and a bookkeeper in 
Malcolmson's office and he was in the picture in the beginning largely 
to keep an eye on the inventor, who might or might not prove as 
unstable as inventors were expected to be. 

John F. and Horace E. Dodge paid for their shares in machine 
work. Albert Strelow, a carpenter, was largely noted for the fact that 
he owned the only hoisting equipment in Detroit at the time which 
would permit construction of a building higher than two stories. Charles 
H, Bennett, an inventor himself, was guiding the destinies of an iron 
wind-mill company that wasn't making wind-mills but air-rifles, and 
hadn't taken time to change its name* Horace H. Rackham and John 
Anderson were law partners of modest practice and Vernon J* 



TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 69 

Fry had been head of the notions business of a department store for 
13 years and was blossoming into real estate sub-dividing. C. J. Woodall^ 
a clerk in the coal office, put in because his boss was so optimistic, 
borrowing $1,000 on a four-month note. 

Of the seven of the dozen who went the route, most important 
was volatile James Couzens, later general manager, police commissioner, 
mayor of Detroit two terms, and later a member of the United States 
Senate and in the forefront of that chamber until his death in 1936. 

Couzens was a pyrotechnical figure in the company's meteoric 
growth and some considered him responsible for a good half of it. In 
the main the majority of the stockholders picked the roses after the 
bush they helped to buy had been planted and came to bloom; for a 
dozen years, however, Couzens got out the spray morning and night, 
and saw that the garden gathered no rust or mildew. 

The mortality rate of Ford executives was high. After periodical 
purges, the fact the ravenous conveyors and furnaces never stopped 
nor grew cool was accepted and promoted by the senior Ford's ad 
mirers as just one more proof that no one was important to the func 
tioning of the incomparable machine but Ford himself. 

The impression conveyed was that Couzens, C. Harold Wills, 
William S. Knudsen, Frank L. Klingensmith, Charles A. Brownell, 
William J. Cameron, Le Roy Pelletier, Hubert Hartman, Peter Martin, 
Alfred P. Lucking, Ernest R. Kanzler, Dean Samuel S. Marquis, A. M, 
Wibel, Norval Hawkins, Clarence W. Avery, Henry Boaner, the 
Lelands, William B. Stout, William B. Mayo, Charles E. Sorensen, Fred 
L. Black, John R. Lee, Charles Hartner, Lawrence P. Sheldrick, Ernest 
G. Liebold, Harry H. Bennett and others who quit or were decapitated 
were minor tracings in the bltieprint of a genius gentlemen who 
dropped in for a year or twenty-five and took up desk space as mere 
eyewitnesses of a rocket's flight. 

Ford had shrewd strong men about him., The question always 
will remain unanswered in some minds whether he was a superman 
who could have carried the company in its formative years to its later 
high productive rhythm and technical perfectitude without some of 
those who walked the plank or banished themselves. Of these, one was 
Couzens, who had $900 in cash to start on, begged another $100 from 
a sister, and tossed in a $1500 note for the balance, and when he sold 
his stock to Ford for $29,308,858, got a higher per-share price, than other 



70 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

sellers $13,444 as against $12,500 to the others. It was the only purchase 
Ford negotiated personally. 

When Ford's chief aide-de-camp from 1903 to 1915 resigned, he 
left at a high boil and with trumpeting. 

"I could not agree with Mr. Ford's public utterances on peace 
and preparedness," he came out shouting. "I disapproved of what he 
said. Disagreements have been more 'violent daily. I cannot be carried 
along on his kind of a kite. We started in the business 13 years ago 
and it was through my efforts the Ford Motor Co. was built up around 
the man Ford. I never worked for any man. Even as railroad car- 
checker in my early days I had no bpss. I was, and am today, willing 
to work with any man; I'm willing to work with Ford but not for 
him." 

For public consumption Ford guessed Couzens referred to Ford's 
opposition to piling up huge armament in the U.S. and to any Anglo- 
French loan. Privately he said the company couldn't be run from Cali 
fornia or White Sulphur, and that a check showed Couzens had been 
away 180 days in the previous year. "I'd rather have Jim's judgment than 
anyone else's when he's here, but his judgment when he isn't here isn't 
as good as that of somebody who is." 

He previously had decided, he said, to make the break with 
Couzens and the latter's ultimatum over an article in a plant paper gave 
an excuse. Couzens blue-penciled a piece against preparedness Ford 
restored it. 

"I want it killed or I quit!" rasped Couzens. 

"You can't stop anything. I'm going to print it." 

"Then count me out!" The general manager banged out. 

The company had just paid dividends of $21,400,000 in the pre 
vious two years and Couzens held n per cent of the stock. He could 
pay his bets at Pinehurst with his share and have a balance and was 
to be appointed some years later to the United States Senate, a seat for 
which Ford tried and failed. 

The motormaker got a meed of revenge years later for the fiery 
retirement. Couzens arrived in Detroit during the banking crisis of 1933 
and telephoned a lawyer close to Ford to see if a meeting couldn't be 
arranged. "Bring Jim along," Ford responded heartily. "Come on out 
to lunch," 

Couzens found a buzzing table and a seat vacant for him across 



TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 71 

from Ford. Voices were loud, banter continuous, and no one could get 
in a serious word. When lunch was over the motormaker urged every 
one to visit the laboratory dance floor and listen to his orchestra. It 
might have been that the orchestra .was accidentally in a mood for 
deafening tunes that day or it could have been that Ford passed the 
word to play as noisily as it could, but loud it was and not even Couzens 
could make himself heard above it. The music finally ended and Ford 
rose briskly and shook hands with the Senator with that clasp which 
was always limp and seemed more a habit than a cordiality, 

"Got to go now," he said, hurriedly. "Nice to have you at lunch, 
Jim. Come out again when you're in town." 

He was off down the floor. Couzens called a few words after him 
but when Ford heard something he did not want to hear he ceased 
hearing it. The Senator never did get a chance to unburden his mind 
of what was on it. 

The general manager did not resign merely because of Ford's 
pacifism or over whether a piece should be printed or not in a plant 
paper. No single friction causes divorce. There was an interesting untold 
reason. A distinguished Army engineer about that time innocently 
made over Couzens' philosophy, which was that money mattered more 
than anything else. The undesigning architect was the late George 
Washington Goethals, chief engineer of the Panama Canal, whose 
achievements in the Canal Zone Couzens had watched from afar with 
small boy adulation. 

They met in Washington after the waterway was opened for 
world commerce and when Couzens' firm conviction still was that get 
ting rich was the No. i design. He was pleased and a little abashed by 
the chance to talk to his hero. Eventually he got around to asking a 
question a money-mad man might ask. 

"What did they pay you for that job?" he finally inquired of the 
man in uniform beside him. 

The general looked as if he did not quite understand. 

"Oh, my Army pay," he said. "As a lieutenant colonel for two 
years $4,500, as a colonel $5,000." 

"A month?" 

Goethals laughed. "No, a year. Of course now as the first civil 
governor I get $12,000." 

For hewing in jungle conditions the big ditch which was one of 



72 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

the world's engineering wonders, Goethals had received $34,000 in 
salary in seven years. In automobile making and in the comfort of a 
modern malaria-free office, Couzens received $2,000,000 in dividends 
alone in the same period, and in the next two years added to it by 
$2,500,000. 

"Why, man, your job should have paid $200,000 a year." The 
Ford general manager was indignant at such underpayment. It did not 
make sense to him. 

"But Mr. Couzens, you miss two points," responded Goethals. 
"One is I loved every minute of it. The other is what could I do with 
$200,000, my tastes being what they are, that I couldn't do on the pay 
I get?" 

Couzens turned that one over in his mind and found he had no 
ready answer. He discovered he did not have an answer considerably 
later, and what Goethals said stirred in him a little doubt of himself 
he never had before. The conversation had a part in changing his 
course. When he sold out of Ford he became police commissioner and 
then mayor of Detroit at $6,000 a year, was appointed to the United 
States Senate, turned into a soft touch in undertakings where children 
were involved, adopted the child of a Canadian soldier who had died 
at the Somme, and in 1929 set up a $10,000,000 foundation dedicated to 
the welfare of children everywhere, regardless of race or color or re 
ligion. He added two million later. He always said he would give 
another million to be able to make a speech like the late Senator William 
E. Borah, 

The principal was enriched by income and up to April 1947 some 
$13,040,000 had been spent and the Children's Fund of Michigan of that 
date had the expenditure of $5,400,000 more ahead of it in the seven 
remaining years of its ordained life. 

He had a great deal of Ford in him. That was why they were 
at opposite ends of the building it was easier on plate glass. He, like 
Ford, thought the business sacred. Once he wrote an autocratic letter 
Co a newspaper which had printed several flivver jokes, "forbidding" it 
ever to print the name of the company again. To show he meant busi 
ness he cancelled some advertising. Ford cancelled the cancellation. 

He, like Ford, thought he was bora under a veil that gave him a 
sixth seme. Both trusted to hunches. Neither would hire a relative, 
though both had brothers. The two were alike ia that they were apt 



TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 73 

to be right a good part of the time, but when they were wrong, wronger 
people would have been hard to find. Couzens said in later years after 
he tasted full power that he thought the best work he ever did was as. 
5 railroad car checker "Why, I could walk down a half mile of cars and 
when I came back write down the numbers from memory and tell 
where any car was." He had a prodigious memory and a cocksureness 
and temper no less big. 

The common belief of Ford and Couzens in their infallibility is 
not hard to trace. In the case of Couzens he graduated from rail yards 
and coal-office ledgers to quick, big and irrevocable decisions as general 
manager for Ford. He spent nine months of the year on sleeping cars 
more big deals, more quick decisions, self-assurance growing. He 
made millions, advanced fast politically the rise cemented his confi 
dence. 

He campaigned as mayor for a municipally owned traction system 
and got it. He was free with the word "liar" for opponents. When 
Detroit banks wanted RFC help in the financial crisis he told the White 
House he would denounce any such assistance from the housetops and 
incurred the animosity of his home town's financial interests. A special 
Senate investigating committee under his chairmanship climbed on 
Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, for alleged favoritism in 
the bestowal of public funds "disguised as tax rebates." Mellon hit back 
with a suit against Couzens for $10,000,000 in taxes allegedly due on the 
sale of Couzens' Ford stock seven years previous and it wound up in 
a rout for the greatest secretary of the treasury since Alexander Ham,- 
ilton. 

When his temper reached the bursting point and he was mad 
at all men, a trip in his car to two places caused him to forget 'adults 
he did not like. His first stop was a children's hospital which was one 
of his pet philanthropies and for which he built a zoo-bed wing his 
second a visit to a convalescent branch in the country. 

"How a child can stay patiently on one of those boards for months 
upon end I'll never know," he said to me once on one of these inspec 
tions while watching young infantile patients strapped to Bradford 
frames. "If it was me, as you know" his eyes twinkled "I'd smash the 
thing to hell the first night." 

He thought that children going under and coming out of an- 
anaesthetic in an operating room were probably half scared to death, 



74 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

and he engaged an artist to fill the walls of surgery with capering dogs 
and elephants and other grotesques as an entertaining distraction and 
repeat the art work in the sunrooms. 

It was never permissible to attribute a discharge order to Ford 
direct but Couzens broke the rule on one memorable occasion when he 
tired of the role of hatchet man. 

One of the salesmen under Couzens was a personable Irishman 
who sold a lot of cars but who hung around such places as bars and 
liked good living and wanted no part of punctuality and time-clock. 
He never seemed to be around when Ford asked for him, and finally 
Ford told Couzens to get rid of him. 

Couzens located the culprit eventually and told him he was 
through. The Irishman left the general manager's office irate and 
headed straight for Ford. Once in the office at the opposite end of the 
building he craftily introduced the reasons for his call by first relating 
some of the best stories he had picked up in disreputable haunts, and 
only then came to the point. 

"By the way, Mr. Ford, I have just been told by Mr. Couzens 
I am finished." 

Ford simulated agitation. The prelude of stories had put him in a 
good mood. He said he could not understand Mr. Couzens' astonishing 
actions at times. He was sure the general manager had used poor 
judgment in this case. He wound up by leading the ingratiating sales 
man to a small wall safe, throwing open the door and taking out a box 
heaped with watches. 

"Here,** he said, "take this watch to show you how I feel, and 
forget what Couzens said. I'll speak to him." 

In all Ford told Couzens six times at various intervals to dis 
charge the Irishman when the salesman was not on deck when wanted 
and six times the scenario was replayed. I do not know what eventually 
happened except that the salesman established a record of six absolutions 
and acquired the same number of silver and gold watches. He did get 
up courage to be rather brusque to the general manager in view of his 
winning streak and finally Couzens blew up, 

"I don't suppose it ever has occurred to you, you silly yap," he 
said, angrily, "that every time I have fired you it was Mr. Ford who 
ordered me to do it!" 

"Well, what do you know?" The salesman sat catching his breath 



TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 75 

over the revelation for a full minute. He finally rallied to say, breezily, 
"He's a wonderful man, isn't he?" 

Ford survived all but two of the original stockholders and out 
lived all who ran their fortunes into seven and eight figures under his 
golden burgee. Last to precede him in death was John Wendell Ander 
son, who bought in with $5,000 borrowed from his father, a Wisconsin 
doctor, and sold out for $12,500,000. 

Anderson never owned a Ford car, got $25 for drawing up the 
incorporation papers, quit active practice in 1916 and decided to have 
fun. 

Whether you were in Lucerne or the south of France or Rio 
thereafter, you would invariably run into the gay Andersons, not trying 
to run their profits into twice as much but enjoying the fruits of their 
luck. He withdrew from active legal practice even before he sold. He 
bought a summer place, "Moana," at Watch Hill, R. L, and his 8o-foot 
yacht was christened the same and cruised ecstatically everywhere. 
When he got home from Europe one year, he wired the chef of his 
favorite San Francisco hotel what he wanted for dinner the night of his 
arrival. He picked up in Egypt and gave to the University of Michigan 
a collection of ancient papyri a ten-foot legal document of the reign 
of Claudius, a wax tablet with Latin as legible as the day it was set 
down in Trajan's time, substantial portions of the Shepherd of Hermas, 
being the earliest known text of this Apocryphal writing, and a small 
portion on parchment of an oration of Demosthenes in the fourth cen 
tury, a prayer to Isis, small bits of Homeric poems and a small frag 
ment of the "Medea" of Euripides. 

He had a small black book in which he kept a record from the 
time the miraculous client a young lawyer dreams of but who seldom 
arrives, walked into his office at 4 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon in 
1902 with Alex Y. Malcolmson, a coal dealer, and outlined what he, 
Henry Ford, had in mind. Anderson called the book his memory 
booster and he once kept a Senate committee in gales of laughter by 
reading snatches of it. 

Ford, the fabulous client, and Malcolmson wanted to talk over 
the organization of an automobile company. Malcolmson, who was 
driving a Winton, was going to put money into it and the company 
was called the Malcolmson-Ford Co., Ltd., in the first articles f in 
corporation. Anderson later used to define a corporation as "an im- 



76 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

personal person with no soul to damn and no tail to kick." He went 
home that night without realizing that lightning had struck. He was 
the last incorporator to sign, the last stockholder to sell. 

He had a stroke at Watch Hill in 1933 which bothered his walk- 
Ing thereafter and disabled an arm but soon he was about and off for 
Honolulu and Mexico City and Bermuda with a wife who had the 
same joie de vivre. 

In the very beginning he had gone with Ford to the Dodge 
machine shop where the brothers were turning out Ford engines, and 
Ford drove him home. 

"It seems to me this automobile business is pretty complicated," 
Anderson had remarked when they were under way. 

The way to really make cars, Ford simplified it, was not as they 
were doing at the time. That was only the best makeshift available. 

"The real way," the budding magnate spelled it out, "is to make 
one like another, and as much alike as pins or matches." 

Anderson thought of the relative sizes of a pin and an automo 
bile and said it was still beyond him. 

. "The principle is just the same." Ford swung around the corner 
to Anderson's house. "All you need is more space." 

The lawyer still had a picture of myriads of pins and asked 
how it was possible to sell automobiles turned out in the same pro 
fusion. 

"Oh, the public will buy them," said Ford, unconcerned about 
any such bugaboo as saturation. "You can make them cheaper in a big 
factory and then people will buy them. Of course you've got to make 
them simple so people also will have no trouble driving them. The 
fewer parts the better. Make f em like pins . . . one like the other." 

Anderson was on the Continent in the spring of 1913, He and 
his wife got as far as Geneva* He had left >vord with his law partner, 
Clarence E. Wilcox, to cable the amount of any dividend that might 
be declared over the regular 5 per cent monthly. 

"Never mind, Clarence, going into details," he said. 

The family was dining in its Swiss hotel suite when the cable 
came. The lawyer did not believe it 

"Five hundred," it said. 

"Probably an error in transmission," he said to his wife. "Must 
Jbe," she agreed. The) got the cable office aad sent the Detroit partner 



TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 77 

a cable which read: "Your cable probably mistake. Say it over again." 
Wilcox repeated "500.". Anderson's borrowed $5,000 had become a 
million. 

"Put on your best hat" he grabbed up his own "and let's go 
and celebrate." 

They went to the Kurtsall and broke champagne. They toasted 
Mr. and Mrs. Ford. They toasted Mr. and Mrs. Couzens. They drank 
to all the stockholders and to themselves. 

"And," Anderson admitted, "if a Ford automobile had come 
into the square we would have dashed out and given it a respectful 
kiss." 

He was a cagy man. When the minority stockholders were 
sounded out on their willingness to sell out to Ford their natural thought 
was what value the government would put on the stock for tax pur 
poses and Daniel C. Roper, commissioner of internal revenue, estimated 
the value of the stock for them at $9,489.34 a share. When the estimate 
was accepted as a basis for the deal Anderson guarded his purse by a 
clause holding Ford liable for any future loss to him if the Roper ap 
praisal did not stand up. He did not invoke the clause, however, when 
the government demanded millions more from the minority group 
eight years later and declared the earlier appraisal not binding. 

Another time when a Detroit newspaper asked permission to 
reprint from a book, The Amazing Story of Henry Ford, an extract 
originating with the lawyer, Anderson displayed the same caution. 

"This is to advise you," he responded, "that the transcription of 
the letter cited and appearing in the book was provided by me. Per 
mission to publish said letter is hereby given providing you agree to 
save me free and harmless from loss or expense to which, for any 
reason, I may be subjected hereafter from any source for having given 
you the above permission." 

A quiet man who shrank from crowds and willed millions to 
improve the lot of those who form them, Horace H. Rackham, law 
partner of Anderson, ran away from the limelight as fast as the man 
who made him a multimillionaire galloped toward it. 

Whea the incorporators put down their cash for stock in Ford 
Motor they produced only $28,000 in fresh money and $5,000 was Rack- 
ham's. He lived two houses away from Henry Ford. He and his wife 
Mamie had a sub-division and where it was not built up they grew 



78 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

vegetables and sold them on the market. They visited a bank and got 
a $5,000 mortgage on the property to go along with their neighbor. 

Both were in their middle forties. He was the son of a sea captain 
but was no brash adventurer. He did not know Ford until the company 
was in formation but he could hear the sputtering of his neighbor's 
engine down the alley nearly every night and sometimes long after 
dark. 

"Come on, Horace/' urged his wife, "let's do it!" 

C. C. Jenks, president of a bank who loaned him the funds, told 
his own wife that night he was sorry to see Horace sink his money in 
one of those wildcat automobile companies but his collateral was good 
and there seemed no chance of dissuading him. 

The widow of Rackham said something unusual when her hus 
band, leaving a $16,000,000 estate, and a will establishing the largest 
philanthropic trust in Michigan history up to the time, died thirty 
years later in Johns Hopkins. She gave out an interview. 

"I can understand a hundred dollars but not a million," she re 
marked. She also said it was best that Horace had gone first. "I am 
better able to be alone than he." 

It wasn't much she said but it was loquacity for a Rackham for 
they were indefatigably camera and publicity shy. He once threatened 
to stop his subscriptions when a community chest publicly identified a 
substantial gift as his against his express request that what he gave was 
to be treated anonymously. 

After Ford paid him $12,500,000 for the stock he bought for 
$5,000 he continued to live much as he had, riding to his office in 
street cars so he could talk to fellow passengers, crossing the Detroit 
River to Canada on a Saturday to bowl on the green. Even in the rain 
he would walk to the corner, ignore taxis and wait for a trolley. At 
night he went home and told Mamie what some interesting passenger 
had said or of a baby he held on his lap. The Rackhams were childless 
themselves. To his employees he was scrupulously courteous, and at 
home he continued to carry out his own ashes, shovel his own snow, 
was a bit of a misanthrope, watched the pennies and was generous 
with dollars* His portfolio at his death contained nothing but blue 
chips* 

He haggled with a lawyer over the unreasonableness of a $5 
telegram in a bill for services totaling $204,ooobut his check for the 



TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 79 

full amount was on the attorney's desk 15 minutes after the bill was 
presented. He lived close to the soil, as did Ford, and the minutes of 
the Ford company show they saw eye to eye. 

As Ford voted Rackham voted. He never forgot who fished the 
murex up. It was Rackham who successfully proposed in 1907 they 
raise Ford's salary to $3,000 a month in 1903 it had been $3,600 a year. 
When undercover overtures were made by a Boston trust company 
to acquire all minority stock, only Rackham, on Ford's orders, was 
told frankly by the intermediary that Ford was the bidder behind the 
scenes. He said on the stand he thought he loved Mr. Ford. 

If it had not been for a golf game the philanthropic fund which 
for all practical purposes it now exhausted after expenditures of $13,- 
800,000 might never have been created. Rackham tired quickly in his 
later years, had to rest every second or third hole, found it hard to get 
golf partners for that reason. A judge, Arthur J. Lacey, met him in 
the clubhouse and asked if he'd care to go a few leisurely holes. 

They teed off and loafed. Rackham began to talk of a desire to 
give poor boys an education and said he had fixed his will to give such 
help, but he was a little vague about the will's terms, said he "hadn't 
looked at the document in some time"; say, he said, he'd really like to 
make sure exactly what was in it. He managed the fourth hole in a 
pleasant 8 and as he dropped his putt he asked, "Let's get together to 
morrow, eh?" A new will was drafted and signed. Thirty days later 
Rackham had a breakdown. 

He was only five years younger than Ford and a bit George 
Apleyish. When the fabulous mine began to pay he did not buy a yacht 
or an ostentatious estate or covet social prestige. He built a modest 
house without battlements or swimming pool or crystal, and he died 
in it. To the fluxing population of a fermenting city about him he was 
a distant figure who had been an original lucky stockholder in the Ford 
company an.d gave a $200,000 tract of land to the city on which he built 
a $200,000 golf course which was named after him. Later the city opened 
a zoo adjacent and he became first president of its operating commission, 
donated $240,000 more for adequate parking space. 

If people thought of him much beyond that, they were the golf 
players who may have wondered why he decided to give golf one nine 
teenth hole perpetually dry. The sale of liquor in the small refectory 
and locker-room was forbidden. It was an unexpected taboo for Rack- 



8o THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

ham, who never drank, smoked or swore, never imposed his views on 
others or gave a cent to reform movements. 

The interest in golf was accidental He had been bothered by 
indigestion. He met another lawyer hurrying along the street who also 
bowled on the green, and he said he was hustling to get through with 
some errands so he could get away that afternoon. 

"But this isn't Saturday/' Rackham said. "There's no bowl- 
ing." 

"Going to play golf." 

"Do you think I'd like it?" 

"No harm in trying, is there?" 

He got some sticks, become a rabid devotee and rid himself of 
his gastric worries. He was a charter member of the Detroit Golf Club, 
had a home at Pinehurst he occupied five months of the year, and 
wrote a clause in his will providing a $30,000 trust fund for his favorite 
pro, Alex Y. Ross, national open champion in 1907. Behind the scenes, 
unpublicized, he financed small colleges, set up scholarship trusts, dis 
patched a University of Michigan expedition to look for Egyptian 
tombs, never was entirely satisfied with what he did by conservative 
philanthropy. 

The will left the bulk of a $16,000,000 estate to the "benefiting 
of humanity," specifically for "such benevolent, charitable, educational, 
scientific public purposes as in the judgment of the trustees will pro 
mote health, welfare, happiness, education, training and development 
of men, women and children, particularly the sick, aged, young, erring, 
poor, crippled, helpless, handicapped, unfortunate and underprivileged, 
regardless of race, color, religion or station primarily in Michigan but 
elsewhere in the world." No one in need was to be neglected. 

The initial grant was $25,000 to the Warm Springs Foundation 
and the second another $25,000 to send infantile sufferers to the Univer 
sity of Michigan for treatment, but trustees chose to give the major por 
tion to educational and scientific work. The University of Michigan 
was the principal beneficiary. Major items were a $2,500,000 Rackham 
School of Graduate Studies at Ana Arbor, Mich., a $1,500,000 Engi 
neering Building in Detroit and $500,000 to Michigan State College 
for research designed to find industrial uses for agricultural products. 

It may be significant or mean nothing that the only living stock 
holders of the original group, Bennett and Fry, did not stay to get rich 



TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 81 

under the Ford aegis. What became of the men who missed the rocket- 
ride? How did they come to miss? Did they play safe or were they 
frozen out as some of them protested? 

Gray himself missed by death but Ford paid the banker's heirs 
$26,250,000 in 1919 for his holdings. Born in Scotland, Gray prospered 
in banking, lumber and a wholesale confectionery business before he 
met the motormaker. A brother, David, founded the Buffalo Courier. 
Their father opened a bazaar in Detroit when John was 14 and where 
he helped to sell toys and candy. His investment of $10,500 in .Ford 
Motor Company was the perfect sure thing his nephew Malcolmson 
promised him his money back within a year if he wanted to get out. 
He died at sixty-five before the incredible Model T even reached the 
designing board and his widow followed him a few months before 
Ford acquired the family's long held shares. 

Gray had a daughter and three sons, but only the daughter sur 
vives. All died multimillionaires in the Twenties, one of them, David, 
banker and American art collector, at Grayholm in Santa Barbara, 
Calif., where the house telephone system had been out of commission 
two years because wrens had built a nest in the phone box in the 
grilled entrance door and he would not open the box for fear of 
destroying the roost. 

Only two blocks of Ford stock were ever reported on the open 
market. Two months after Couzens quit the company, an offer by him 
of 500 shares at $13,500 a share was supposedly made, and the story 
is that a counter-offer was refused of five million cash, the balance in 
sixty days, and forfeiture of the deposit if the titrte limit was not met. 
The bidder did not improve on the offer and no one else was willing 
to go that high. A block of 1575 shares held by the Gray estate was 
reported for sale at one time but the best offer of $9,000 a share was 
declined. 

Malcolmson sold his stock to Ford for $175,000 the year of 
Gray's death when the directors asked for his resignation as treasurer 
and director because of his interest in an air-cooled motor and on in 
formation that he was planning to manufacture automobiles powered 

by it. 

The coal man died in 1923 after running his coal business, Ford 
profits and sewer and supplies business into an estimated $2,000,000. 
When his insurance policy for $633,500 was paid off, it was announced 



82 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

as the fifth largest paid in the United States and Canada that year. 

The carpenter Strelow almost missed the boat in the first place 
because he did not like the way Ford dressed. He owned the building 
which housed the first Ford factory but when Malcolmson approached 
him in 1902 and said, "Albert, I want you to put up a shop for me 
back of your place I want to build horseless carriages" and suggested 
that Albert risk some cash as well, Strelow asked who was in with 
him. 

W A fellow named Ford," said Malcolmson. "Know him?" ' 

The carpenter thought he did, vaguely, as a man around the 
Detroit Illuminating Company some 10 years before when he erected a 
building for the Edison people. 

The coal man walked to a window and pointed to a man on the 
ground below* Strelow saw a seedy fellow in baggy pants and a yellow 
overcoat patched at the elbows. 

M If you want me to put up a factory for him I won't do it," 
Strelow said, unimpressed. 

He reconsidered and invested $5,000 the year of incorporation, 
however. When he sold out he tossed his profits into a gold mine in 
British Columbia and they stayed there. 

It was funny about Charlie Bennett, who twice went around 
the world with a Daisy air-rifle as master salesman and is now presi 
dent and a major shareholder of the company manufacturing that 
bellicose firearm of boyhood. 

He still lives in the same home from which he commuted into 
Detroit one slushy February morning in 1903 with cash in his pocket 
to buy an Olds. Had he not stopped at his tailor's to try on a suit he 
probably would have gone on to the Oldsmobile salesroom and been 
just the first man in Plymouth, Mich,, to own a horseless carriage. He 
is a little regretful at losing that honor. 

The tailor had two curtained fitting rooms and he and the 
customer chaffed each other while Charlie was getting into his new 
wardrobe. 

"If this suit doesn't fit better than the last I won't ride you 
around in my aew car," he said, 

"Going to buy a new one, Mr. Beanett?" 

* 4 Sure am! Fm on my way now." He said he and his wife, always 
had a nice span of horses because they always liked to be going some- 



TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 83 

where but they had talked it over a week before and decided to tackle 
an automobile. 

Charlie thought the next fitting room to his was empty but he 
had no more than walked out and the tailor was chalking here and 
there when another customer parted the other portieres an architect 
whom Bennett knew casually from some work he had done in Plym 
outh a couple of years before. His name was Malcolmson and he was 
a cousin of A. Y. Malcolmson, Ford's coal-dealer partner. 

"It's none of my business, Mr. Bennett," he remarked, "but I 
overheard you say you were on your way to buy a car." Charlie said 
he was. "I think," said the architect, "you're a man who likes the 
best and there's a man in town who's building a car with a horizontal 
engine. You don't get the jar from it that you do from most of these 
contraptions." 

Charlie pondered as the architect continued enthusiastically and 
finally allowed it was true that since he had waited this long, there was 
no necessity of his buying a car that day. He would like to see the 
touted motor. 

"I'd like you to take a ride with the man who made it. Let me 
telephone him the name is Henry Ford." The name was new to 
Bennett. Malcolmson borrowed the tailor's phone. 

"He says he will be in the alley behind this building in 25 
minutes." Malcolmson turned around from the phone. Bennett signi 
fied he'd wait. "All right, Mr. Ford, he'll be there." 

Ford arrived in the promised time and the two started in the 
rain and slush. The tires were hard rubber. The car steered by a tiller 
on the right-hand side. 

"Would you like to run it?" Ford inquired after they had 
traveled several blocks. 

"Think I could?" 

Ford relinquished the tiller and Bennett thought he would in 
sure himself against trouble by steering into the street car tracks. He 
was preening himself on his strategy when the quiet man beside him 
said something his passenger never forgot. 

"It might help you in the future to know that driving on car 
tracks is not a good thing to do," Ford cautioned. "The car is likely 
to turn around." 

At that precise moment the car went into a skid and wound up 



84 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

facing an oncoming trolley. The motorman stopped before he reached 
the stalled machine, but Bennett never drove an automobile on a street 
car track after that. 

He liked the engine and asked when Ford was going to have 
an automobile he could buy. 

"I don't know," hesitated the engineer. "That's really my part 
ner's department. He is Mr. A. Y. Malcolmson." 

"Well, Fin getting cold; let's go ask him." 

"You liked it, did you?" said the coal dealer after the intro 
ductions. 

"I don't know much about engines but it runs all right it kept 
going. I want one if it doesn't cost too much. 

Malcolmson showed the hesitancy of Ford. He said he didn't 
know when the car would be ready in quantity. 

"Who does?" Bennett's voice had a little sand in it. "Mr. Ford 
says he doesn't now you say you don't. What do I have to do to get 
one?" 

Malcolmson was frank. He said he had ordered 250 engines and 
some bodies and a lot of other materials. There was no guaranteed date 
for delivery, however, and he admitted that while he had a good coal 
business, he and Ford didn't have much money to play with. Bennett 
examined some of the contracts. 

"Would you be able to pay for all this stuff if it was dumped 
down in front tomorrow and cash demanded?" 

The coal dealer said probably not. Did his banker know of all 
these contracts? Well, not exactly. 

"I really think you ought to confide in your banker before the 
roof falls in." Bennett got ready to leave, He remembered with satisfac 
tion, however, his ride with Ford* "When you're making cars," he 
warned, "be sure I get one." 

Ford drove to Plymouth next morning with a proposal He said 
his partner was a trifle uneasy after the previous day's talk* Would 
Bennett be interested in going into the automobile business ? 

Malcolmson already had put in $12,000 in cash. Ford would 
throw in his patents and services. In return he and the coal dealer 
would take half a stock issue of $100,000, Would Bennett put in $50,000 
aad cut himself in for half of Ford Motor Company? Also, would he 
run it? 



TWELVE WHO CAUGHT A RIDE 85 

"I've saved some money but not that much," said Bennett, 
promptly. "And I've got a business now." 

But would Ford take E. C. Hough, his associate, for a ride in the 
car? An idea had struck Bennett. He did not have $50,000 but the 
Plymouth Iron Wind-Mill Company did. Would it be possible for the 
company, he reflected, to come in on the proposed deal? He put it up 
to Hough when Ford left. 

"It's certainly a new one on me," said Hough. He agreed it might 
be well for Bennett to take the two good engineers to Detroit and get 
expert advice on the potentialities of the Ford engine. 

"It's the best we've seen," the engineers reported after a day in the 
machine shop where the engines were being built. "We think k will 
pan out." 

Lawyers were consulted. They said the Plymouth company was 
incorporated to manufacture wind-mills and air rifles. If Hough and 
Bennett exceeded that authority without consent of minor interests, 
they would have clear sailing provided the speculation was success 
ful if it was not they would be liable for any losses. If they did not 
wish to take that risk it would be wise to secure the approval of other 
stockholders before any commitment was made. Bennett went to work 
and signed up four next day. 

Later difficulties, unluckily, halted the deal and he kad to report 
that purchase of a half-interest at the $50,000 figure could aot be 
handled the way he hoped it might be. When Ford Motor was in 
corporated he put in $5,000 for 50 shares for himself and received what 
he remembers as the first stock certificate. 

The elder statesman of Plymouth, Mich., now eighty-four, lives 
today in the same house from which he set out to buy the Olds 
automobile 45 years ago. We talked in a sumptuous recreation room 
over his garage. It has no telephone and when he wants privacy he 
goes there. The previous day he had been to Detroit to see the Tigers 
and the New York Yankees divide a double header. His cronies would 
meet in the same room the next night to play red-dog. The air-rifle 
plant around the corner employs ten times the fifty workers it did in 
1903, although it has given up making wind-mills. Through three wars 
he has preached the beauty of a world of air-rifle sanity. When he sold 
a mill in the early days he gave the buyer's son a rifle as a bonus. 

Men who invested the same amount as Bennett in Ford Motor 



86 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

and stayed invested until Ford bought them out received an average of 
$12,500,000 for their holdings, exclusive of dividends. 

"I sold my Ford stock for $35,000 and I had had two dividends 
of $5,000 each when I got out," Stockholder No. i said, gazing out on 
the tulips which colored one corner of his sloping lawn. 'Fry, now in 
Florida, and Strelow, who died in 1934, got the same. "I still consider 
those odds very good," he remarked. A few raindrops were falling 
upon the panes. "Probably just as well if that ball game today is rained" 
out," he said. "Those Yankees look very strong this year, don't they?" 



He cuts and thrusts at Jews 
hut, on recanting, Insists it 
wasn't he, really, who was to 
blame hut an unmannerly 
subordinate or two who ran 
wild without his knowing it. 



CHAPTER VII 
PAPER POGROM 



HENRY FORD became a storm trooper, American style. In 
the eyes of the Jewish people in 1920. 
Week by week over a period o two years, irregularly 
thereafter and impotently opposed by members of his family 
and closest counsel, he caused to have published a series of articles in 
which he set up the major postulate that there was a Jewish plot to rule 
the world by control of the machinery of commerce and exchange by 
a super-capitalism based wholly on the fiction that gold was wealth. 
The International Jew and his satellites had become, his editor said, a 
corruptive influence and the conscious enemy of all that Anglo-Saxons 
meant by civilization. 

The paper pogrom or school of instruction as he preferred to 
call it ran seven years. Why? At the end of that time he retracted. 
Why ? When he apologized he put the blame on others. Why ? He said 
other men had abused his trust and it never would have happened if 
he had not been so busy. Why did he loose this force that added fury 
to similar forces already in existence? 

To the Jewish people he appeared to be doing by the typed assault 
what Nazi Germany was to do a decade later with stones, yellow paint, 
Buchenwald and firing squads. To himself he was a man bent upon a 
desirable surgical operation for which he had no taste, awakening the 
public to a menace he professed to see and hoped to correct before it 
engulfed the United States. 

87 



88 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Ford, according to him, was not anti-Semitic. The attack was not 
on Jews as Jews, he said a distinction he found hard to maintain. The 
editor of his Dearborn Independent himself declared that Ford's weekly 
was merely a vehicle of unwelcome facts and he expressed a wish that 
some prophetic Jew would arise who would see that "the promises 
bestowed upon the Ancient People are not to be realized by Rothschild 
methods." 

Twenty-six years later Henry Ford II, who had been three years 
old when his grandfather began his seminar, stood before leading Jews 
of the United States in New York at the beginning of the United 
Jewish Appeal and said, "The persecution of European Jews by Nazi 
Germany gave the whole world a horrible object lesson of what happens 
when prejudice and brute force destroy human freedom and the 
dignity of the individual.** 

At noon the same day I lunched with a high ex-member of 
Henry Ford's old guard. The former lieutenant had been reminiscing 
over early days. When he talked of Jews, what he said was interlarded 
with curbstone terms, and he snapped out the words as if banging 
a rifle over an inviting head. We finished our coffee and walked 
through the hotel lobby. Once when I turned to talk to him he was not 
beside me but bent over and picking up some object from the floor. 

"What did you find?" I asked. 

"A dime,'* he straightened and tucked the piece in a, vest 
pocket. As we went on toward the door he said, "It's a wonder a Jew 
did not find it first." 

The bygone days seemed back again when a Ford interviewer's 
ears rang with such remarks as, "When there's wrong in a country 
you'll find Jews," and, "The Jew is a huckster who doesn't want to 
produce but to make something of what somebody else produces." Did 
my luncheon host catch the disease from Ford or Ford from him? 
The behind-the-hand names he used seemed to make his own position 
clear. 

No one knows when the seed was sown or who planted it, One 
explanation is that Ford was a country boy brought up in an area 
which knew no Jews and had a suspicion of races with which it was 
unfamiliar, but his plant abounded in nationalities and he found no 
cause to open a school of instruction for any other group* 

It was said he had been duped by Mme, Rozika Schwimmer in 



PAPER POGROM 89 

his peace ship adventure and hated the race responsible for her, but the 
Budapest Jewess who was one of the inspirations of that expedition is 
authority for the statement that as far back as 1914 he had said in con 
versation with her, "I know who started this war the German-Jewish 
bankers," and had slapped a pocket of his coat where he said he had 
proof. "I have the evidence herefacts! I can't give them out yet because 
I haven't got them all. I'll have them soon!" Ford said she had more 
brains that all the others put together who sailed on the Oscar 11 and he 
went to her defense years later when she sued a columnist for saying 
Ford's Jewish bias was due to her mishandling of peace ship funds. 

The actual inside story, another source has it, is that he called 
at a New York bank to cash a European draft and a teller directed him 
to an upstairs room. "There," he was to say later, "I found a lot of 
Jews sitting around smoking cigars as long as chimneys." Payment of 
the draft was not made promptly because of some technicality. For some 
time afterwards he spoke angrily of the experience. 

Others disbelieved all these explanations and charged that his 
passage with Jewry stemmed from trouble in negotiating a loan In 
Eastern money markets, but if they had in mind $100,000,000 he bor 
rowed to buy out his minority stockholders in 1919 that money was 
procured through a Boston house which scarcely could be described 
as a Semite institution. Moreover, if difficulties with Jewish financiers 
had kindled his ire, he would have been specific and named names. 
Those about him at the time do not remember his ever attributing his 
attack to any friction with Jewish banking circles. 

World War I had been over only a year when a night worker 
at Dearborn bit into a candy bar and swiftly ran through his accumu 
lated mail. He was just in from Washington and had taxied to the office 
on the way home to see if anything out of the ordinary had taken place 
in his absence. The train had been so crowded he had not been able 
to get into the diner. Along the way to the tractor plant he had picked 
up a couple of candy bars to tide him over until he got home for dinner. 
He had been sitting there only a few minutes when he noticed a face 
pressed against the glass panel of the outer door and the knob turned. 

"What's up that you're here at this hour?" asked Ford, perching 
on a corner of the desk. 

The executive said he was cleaning up odds and ends. He had 
been out of town and wanted to see what had piled up while he was 



90 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

away. Ford reached over and helped himself to a piece o candy. He 
munched on it and scowled a little. 

"This stuff isn't as good as it used to be, is it?" he remarked. 
He put the untouched remainder back on the tinfoil. 

The executive said, "Don't you think so?" perfunctorily, and 
added that he had noticed no particular change. 

"The Jews have taken hold of it." Ford shook his head. He got 
up from the desk and walked around it to a chair. "They're cheapening 
it to make more money out of it." 

The employee expressed polite interest but the remark nudged 
his memory. More and more of late he had heard Ford speak waspishly 
of Jews. Others had remarked on the drift. It might mean anything or 
nothing. The war had ended. The last Eagle boat had been launched, 
the final ambulance assembled, the last Liberty motor delivered. Was 
he looking for a new activity? Were the Jews to be it? It was hard 
to figure what was going on behind those blue eyes, or to tell in 
advance how he might jump. He would come galloping down to the 
takeoff in normal manner but instead of leaping straight ahead he 
might fling himself disconcertingly to right or left. 

Exactly four years before Ford had sailed for Scandinavia in fruit 
less effort to stop World War I. He mentioned the anniversary now 
that he had expressed himself on the mediocrity of the chocolate. 

"So it is," the executive remembered. He said, "What did you 
get out of that trip, Mr. Ford? What did you learn?" They were varia 
tions of a question the motormaker always was putting to people. 

"I know who makes wars," Ford responded quickly. "The Inter* 
national Jewish bankers arrange them so they can make money out oi 
them. I know it's true because a Jew on the peace ship told me." 

He said he got the whole dark story out of that one man. He had 
told Ford it was impossible to get peace his way. However good the 
intention, no argosy such as a peace ship could bring it off unless he 
saw the right people, and the "right people" were certain Jews in 
France and England. 

"That man knew what he was talking aboutgave me the whole 
story." Ford got up from his chair in the warm office. "We're going to 
tell the whole story one of these days and show them up!'* He said it 
in, the tone of one who had found an assailable evil worthy of his talent, 

He went out into the hall and the executive returned to the read- 



PAPER POGROM 91 

ing of mail. It confirmed whispers he had heard before. A- worried editor 
consulted him a few weeks later. William J. Cameron, Ford's writing 
chief, was unable or did not try to dissuade the motormaker from 
launching the attack but he was originally tepid about it himself. His 
predecessor, Edwin G. Pipp, quit because he did not want any part 
of it, or said it was one reason for his resignation. Cameron told his 
associate that Ford was harping on International Jewry and its alleged 
crimes and wanted a series of pieces written. 

"He's making a lot of charges but offers no proof," the editor 
put it. "It's not enough to go on." 

It is well established that when Cameron began writing about 
the Jews he did so with the same pseudo enthusiasm of an advertising 
man suddenly called upon to promote a toothpaste no different than 
a hundred others. It was an assignment, despite the fact it was said 
at the finish that he was the man culpable. Ford himself intimated as 
much and the editor's head was demanded as a peace-offering. 

It was Ford's paper that printed the articles. It was his money 
paid for them. He was repeatedly advised by friends that he was wrong, 
He could have walked in any morning and laid low any headstrong 
scalawag who was doing anything against his wishes, a detail that seems 
to explode the theory that Ford had only a few articles in mind and that 
his editor, sold on the affray later, picked up the ball and ran away 
with it, Ford leaving the stadium and never looking back. No executive 
was so secure that he could safely do what Ford did not want done and 
go on doing it for seven years. 

The Talmud was translated. European and domestic sources 
were tapped for information. He came into possession of the Protocols 
of Zion. Everyone who ever had been done a real or imaginary injustice 
by a Jew wrote to tell him about it. Articles were brought from special 
investigators. The ensuing 91 articles were issued in book, form, 200,000 
words to an edition, and widely distributed. A special printing in 
leather was prepared for a key list. 

Ford found he had been slightly naive. He figured if he showed 
the Jews what was wrong with them in mannerism and habit, as he saw 
it, they'd mend their ways and everybody would be happy. He had a 
feeling, unbelievedly, that he was going to be of help and he was clearly 
disturbed when the Jews jumped on him. He felt the disciplining of a 
race was no different than that of an individual that anyone of in- 



92 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

telligence would welcome good advice. . . . You simply told a man 
what you considered wrong and he resolved to do better in the future. 

The International Jew set the pattern of his articles. Ford's thesis 
was this: 

The Jewish Question has been with the world for some time. It 
was the consequence of certain un-Jewish ideas held by Jews of the 
top flight. 

The International Jew occupied literally every controlling level 
of power and nothing remained unvanquished but the Christian re 
ligion. 

Russia had tried segregation. Germany attempted to vote Jewry 
out of political power only to find the roots deep in finance. England 
tried to work it out by absorption. Exasperated little countries turned to 
violence. None of this had worked. 

He would try suasion and education in the belief that "the clear 
eye of the man who sees and understands is something that even the 
evil powers of Jewry cannot endure." His was no race hatred, race 
prejudice, persecution in the ordinary sense but a calm attempt to un 
cover the extent and causes of Jewish control in the United States and 
elsewhere. He was making the attempt himself because others seemed 
skittish about touching it. 

"The idea seems to be," his paper said, "that any writing not 
simply cloying in sweetness toward things Jewish is born of lies, insult, 
insinuation and constitutes an instigation to massacre. It would seem 
to be necessary for our Jewish citizens to enlarge their classification 
of Gentiles to include the class which recognizes the existence of a 
Jewish question and which is still not anti-Semitic, The current press 
in general is open only to fulsome editorials in favor of everything 
Jewish while the Jewish press takes care of the vituperation." 

All-Judaan, it was said, formed a state whose citizens, rich or 
poor, were unconditionally loyal 

Its means of power were capital and journalism. 

Its fleet was the British fleet, guarding from hindrance the 
progress of all Jewish world economy, or that part which depended 
on the sea. In return, All-Judaan assured Britain an undisturbed politi 
cal and territorial world rules- 

AU'Judaan's quarrel with any nation occurred only when All- 
Judaan could not control that nation's industrial and financial profits. 



PAPER POGROM 93 

It could make war and peace, command anarchy in stubborn 
cases, r restore order. By the press it could always prepare the people 
for the next step. 

When the powerful Jew was traced and his hand revealed, there 
came the ready cry of persecution. The real causes of the persecution, 
"which is the oppression of the people by the financial practices of 
the Jew," were never given publicity. 

Having made his charges, Ford stated his remedies : 

The old moral landmarks had been broken down by the Orien 
tal Jewish invasion. The invincible course was to return to "the prin 
ciples which made our race great." 

Let businessmen go back to the old way when a man's word 
was kis bond and when business was service and not exploitation. 

Learn to test quality in fabric and food. 

Re-examine so-called liberal ideas. "We have takea our amuse 
ments without thought and read our newspapers wholly innocent of 
the propaganda mixed with the news. We have been weaned from our 
natural leaders." 

The solution of the problem lies in the United States. The work 
is to hold the world steady while the changes take place. 

There is a serious snare in pleas for tolerance. Tolerance is first 
a tolerance of the truth. "Tolerance is urged today for the sake of 
suppression. Ignorance, suppression, silence and collusion are not toler 
ance." 

For 91 weeks the Dearborn Independent, with what is called 
sanitary publicity, discussed the Jewish question. It predicted that swell 
ing immigration of Jews who regarded the Gentile as an hereditary 
enemy would eventually bring matters to a head in the United States 
and outlined various steps by which resentment against the Jew in 
America would grow: 

The first element here would be resentment against certain Jew 
ish commercial success, and more particularly against "the united action 
by which it has been attained." 

The second element would undoubtedly appear in prejudice and 
incitement- "The majority is not always right and it is not always 
initially reasonable." 

The Jew will not be destroyed, but neither will he be permitted to 
maintain the yoke he has been so skillful in fastening on society. Jews 



94 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

are the beneficiaries of a system which itself will change, and they will 
be forced to other and higher devices to justify their place in the world. 

The American mind will not rest with merely resenting certain 
individuals. It will probe deeper. It will get at the roots of the trouble 
and bare them to the light, to die as all roots do when deprived of 
the concealment of darkness. 

Thus Ford set down his creed. The paper then turned from Jews 
in a world government to Jews in American finance, in copper, theater, 
motion pictures, baseball, bootlegging, song writing, with such en 
hancements as "The Jewish Associates of Benedict Arnold," "The 
Gentle Art of Changing Jewish Names," "What Jews Attempted When 
They Had Power," "The All-Jewish Mark on Red Russia," and "Taft 
Once Tried to Resist the Jews And Failed." 

The Middle Ages had their flare-ups. The Anti-Semitic League 
had been organized at Dresden. Hungary revived the Blood Accusa 
tion. Russia cooped the Jews in ghettos and sacked their towns. The 
story spread on the Continent that Jews were using Christian blood 
in baking Easter bread. France had the notorious Dreyfus case. Against 
the sanguinary past Ford promotion of a school of instruction was diffi 
cult The articles touched off a conflagration, though mild. 

Yet it was not that everyone Hebraic was per se an international 
plotter. No one stood higher in his esteem than his Jewish architect, 
who designed most of the buildings in which Ford processes were 
housed. No one had his respect more than a Jewish rabbi who later 
refused the usual automobile with which Ford presented him at Christ 
mas. His payroll was not closed to Jews, although the industrial opera 
tions were not of a nature to attract the race in numbers and the ratio 
of Jews to the state's population was not what it was in respect to 
other nationalities. He did not employ them in his offices. 

A boycott hit Ford sales. Most Jewish firms ceased buying his 
products* Individual Jews did the same. Gentile firms doing business 
with Jewish concerns and dependent on their good will followed suit 
to please their best customers. Ford competitors began to creep up. 
Branch managers complained bitterly of sales resistance ia cities having 
large Jewish populations* 

The articles began in May, 1920, The effect of the boycott was 
perceptible within a few months but was not strong enough to stagger 
in view of the potential post-war market* It was hard to measure how 



PAPER POGROM 95 

much the Ford fall-off was due to boycotting and how much to the 
fact that other makes of cars were being produced in greater quantities 
and a resentful prospect had the product of another company to turn 
to. More people were being influenced by competitive advertising. 
Another factor was that Ford held to his planetary transmission while 
other cars adopted standard gear shift. Former officials high in the 
company, however, agree that the company during the run of the 
articles lost business it did not regain. 

Ford did not leave all the crusading to hired hands. When shown 
a cable that some of his tractors had been seized in Berlin, he told a 
Syracuse, N. Y. newsman, "111 blame it on the Jewish business men 
you blame it on anyone you want." To Judson C. Welliver for the 
Review of Reviews he said that while he had thousands of Jews work 
ing for him, he saw that they worked and didn't get into office jobs. 
On his way with Thomas Edison to inspect Muscle Shoals in 1921, an 
Alabama reporter got to him and he elaborated at length on his pur 
poses. He said his "course of instruction on the Jews" would last five 
years. It contradicted the idea that Ford had only a few articles in mind 
and for the rest a runaway editor was responsible. 

"It was the Jews themselves who convinced me of the direct re 
lationship between the International Jew and war," he said to the 
Florence, Ala., correspondent of the New York Times. "In fact they 
went out of their way to convince me. 

"On the peace ship were two very prominent Jews. We had not 
been at sea 200 miles before they began telling me of the power of the 
Jewish race, of how they controlled the world through their control 
of gold, and that the Jew and no one but the Jew could end the war. 
I was reluctant to believe it but they went into detail to convince me 
of the means by which the Jews controlled the war, how they had the 
money, how they had cornered all the basic materials, needed to fight 
the war and all that, and they talked so long and so well that they 
convinced me. 

"They said, and they believed, that the Jews started the war, that 
they would continue it as long as they wished, and that until the Jew 
stopped the war it could not be stopped. I was so disgusted I would 
have liked to turn the ship back." 

When he got back to the United States Ford said he began 
looking around for himself and claimed he found the proof he wanted. 



96 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

He decided the situation should be made clear to the people of the coun 
try. But he could not get a single newspaper to touch the subject, he said. 
It seemed, he asserted, there was no paper which dared to print the 

truth. 

Then a funny thing happened, he said. An old chap came to his 
office and wanted to sell a Dearborn newspaper. Ford bought it. The 
thought came to him in a flash, he told the Alabama correspondent, 
that if no publisher in the United States was strong or courageous 
enough to tell the truth about war, he'd do it. 

"Well show indisputably," he promised, "that one of the great 
factors that brought on the Civil War and made full settlement of the 
issues impossible was the Jew. And that is far from the whole story. 
There'll be more!" 

Ford reversed himself in December of 1921 and ordered the 
Jewish articles stopped. He had soured on the gold standard and had 
a monetary reform of his own. He wanted the Jews to help him put it 
across. 

"They won't do it," Cameron said flatly. 

"Oh, yes, they will; we can work them," Ford said confidently. 

The explanation of E. G. Pipp, Cameron's predecessor, for the 
turnabout was that Ford had his eye on the Presidential nomination. 
An adviser called his attention to the fact that no man ever had been 
elected President who did not carry the electoral votes of New York 
and Ohio two states where his own Jewish campaign had been re 
flected in lowered popularity. 

Ford ran for the United States Senate In 1918 at the reported 
request of Woodrow Wilson but was defeated by Truman H. New- 
berry, a Michigan Republican, but in defeat he had his eye on bigger 
game and began to build his fences, 

"I believe he hoped to win votes by attacking the Jews," wrote 
Pipp in later years, "He knew there were about three million Jews 
in the United States and he figured he would gain three or four or five 
votes of non-Jews for every Jewish vote lost. He knew the feeling 
existent in thousands of small towns because he was a small town boy 
himseli From 1916 one could sec his changing mind. At first he talked 
only about 'the big fellows* and said he had nothing against Jews in 
ordinary walks of life, Later he stated: They are all pretty much alike/ " 

The articles ceased. They "ended" on a self-congratulatory note 



PAPER POGROM 97 

to the effect that Mr. Ford had provided a bunch o keys by which 
people might unlock doors and make further inquiries, and a further 
promise that the Independent would follow other aspects of the Ques 
tion the capital Q was the editor's discussing them from time to time 
as circumstances warranted. It seemed that the intensive half of the 
lesson was over. It was not, however; but nothing would appear again 
until Ford had shaken off the Presidenial bee and announced himself 
for Calvin Coolidge. It was not until April 12, 1924, that he took wing 
again. This time it was a series of twenty articles under the general 
title "Jewish Exploitation of Farmer Organizations," and in them the 
name of Aaron Sapiro, Chicago attorney and organizer of co-operatives, 
was mentioned as an arch collusionist. 

A million dollar suit of Sapiro against Ford went on trial in 
United States District Court, Detroit, in March of 1927. The defamation 
charged was that the Independent had painted him as leader of a 
Jewish ring bent upon obtaining control of the nation's agricultural 
interests. 

The court refused to permit Ford's attitude toward the Jewish 
race in general to become part of the record. United States Senator 
James M. Reed of Missouri, chief of counsel for Ford, held that the 
Hebrew race was not bringing the suit and that Sapiro had no right 
to come into court, recover damages in the name of the race and put 
the money, if any, in his own pocket. Ford was only president, he said, 
of the Dearborn Publishing Co., a corporation. The corporation printed 
the charges. It wasn't the act of Ford. Besides, Ford had neither read 
nor seen the articles complained of. 

William Henry Gallagher, counsel for Sapiro, argued that when 
Ford caused to be printed such headlines as "A Band of Jews Is on the 
Back of the American Farmer" and "Jewish Exploitation of Farmers' 
Organizations" and mentioned Sapiro as one of the back-climbers, the 
issue was bigger than a suit by his client against an incorporated pub 
lishing house. He asked that Ford be produced from behind the screen 
of legal fiction. 

"There seems great fear in this lawsuit of mentioning a Jew, the 
Jewish question or the Jewish topic," he argued to the presiding judge. 
"The term seems taboo. The Jewish question? Oh, no, we can't discuss 
it. If there had been any misapprehension by Mr. Ford in the first 
instance such as his attorneys show now, there never would have been 



9 8 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

any reason for this lawsuit. There is no use trying to pull the wool 
over our eyes and tell ourselves this is only an attack on Aaron Sapiro 
and that he personally and individually is being libeled." 

Counsel said about the only policy the Dearborn Independent 
had was to have a writer write an attack. A debate went on for days 
over the issue of whether Ford was an innocent bystander and not re 
sponsible for the declared libel or was the instigator and suable, despite 
the convenient corporate structure of the paper in which the purported 
calumny appeared. 

Cameron, the editor, added slightly to the perplexity by testimony 
that he never had discussed with Ford any articles about any Jews. If 
there was onus it was probably his, the implication was, since Mr. Ford 
practically gave him freedom to go ahead and only insisted he be 
right. The editor said he never had seen Ford even read a copy of his 
paper. Everybody always said that. No one ever got around to ask if 
some of the articles in proof were read to him. 

With the suit in progress only two weeks, a heavy closed car came 
up behind a coupe in which Ford was driving alone on a Sunday night 
near his home and sides wiped him. The coupe jumped a curbing, 
plunged down a fifteen-foot embankment and struck a tree a hundred 
feet from the Rouge River. A dazed Ford staggered to the gate house 
of his estate, and his wife was telephoned. Two days later the surgeon- 
in-chief of Ford Hospital decided to move him into the institution. He 
was reported suffering from a slight concussion, contusions over the 
ribs and some spitting of blood and passing of blood from the bladder. 

The accident occurred on a Sunday, It did not become generally 
known until the following Wednesday when the company issued a 
statement explaining the secrecy by the lawsuit in progress and "un 
avoidable and unfounded inferences that might be drawn." A news 
paper reported rumors of an attempted "death plot"; the company 
statement said "Mr. Ford strongly deprecates the suggestion that the 
accident was the result of intent on anyone's part." No proof was ever 
offered that the sideswiping was any more than a routine Sunday-traffic 
mishap. 

Within another three weeks the Sapiro suit was declared a mis 
trial when a woman juror was accused by Ford detectives of accepting 
a package from a stranger, "presumably foreign/' and an interview 
with the juror appeared in a newspaper* Oa July 7, about two months 



PAPER POGROM 99 

after the litigants had tentatively agreed to a date for a retrial, Henry 
Ford issued his apology to the Jewish people and the maneuverings 
behind the scenes were such that his editor, his counsel and other mem 
bers of the Dearborn hierarchy learned first of the retraction in their 
newspapers. 

The offer of the apology was his. The retraction would be ac 
ceptable, he was told, if certain conditions were met. There was to be 
no pussy-footingit was to be complete. No more anti-Semitic articles 
were to be published. No more copies of the book, The International 
Jew, were to be circulated. Cameron and Ernest G. Liebold, general 
manager, were to be fired. 

As peace envoys Ford sent Joseph A. Palma, head of the New 
York field force of the United States Secret Service, and Earl J. Davis, 
a former assistant United States attorney general, to Louis P. Marshall, 
head of the American Jewish Committee, and Nathan D. Perlman, 
former Congressman and a vice-president of the American Jewish Con 
gress. 

The story most often told is that on a visit of Palma to Dearborn 
Ford mentioned that he had been quietly investigating some statements 
made in the Independent and was shocked by what he found. Palma 
said he knew personally the offense Ford had given the Jewish people. 

"I wish this wrong could be righted," Palma quoted Ford as 
saying. 

The government agent said he would lend every assistance he 
could. 

"Go to it," Ford said, according to Palma's story. "When my 
real views are explained to the proper people they will know I am 
prepared to act honorably and to repair the damage as far as I can." 

Palma said Ford signed the retraction without reading it. 

"This is pretty strong, Mr. Ford, and I suggest you go over it 
pretty carefully/' Palma cautioned. 

"Joe, no matter how strong it is it couldn't be too strong. Let 
the Jew judge me by my acts in the future." 

In his three-quarter column retraction sent to Arthur Brisbane 
for release to the press as he saw fit, Ford said in part: 

"In the multitude of my activities it has been impossible for me 
to devote personal attention to their management or to keep informed 
as to their contents. It has therefore inevitably followed that the conduct 



ioo THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

and policies of these publications had to be delegated to men whom I 
placed in charge of them and upon whom I relied implicitly. 

"To my great regret I have learned that Jews generally, and par 
ticularly those of this country, not only resent these publications as 
promoting anti-Semitism, but regard me as their enemy. Trustworthy 
friends with whom I have conferred recently have assured me in all 
sincerity that in their opinion the character of the charges and insinua 
tions against the Jews, both individually and collectively, contained 
in many of the articles which have been circulated periodically in the 
Dearborn Independent, and have been reprinted in the pamphlets men 
tioned, justifies the righteous indignation entertained by Jews every 
where toward me because of the mental anguish occasioned by the un 
provoked reflections made upon them. 

"This had led me to direct my personal attention to this subject 
in order to ascertain the exact nature of these articles. As a result of 
this survey I confess I am deeply mortified that this journal, which is 
intended to be constructive and not destructive, has been made the 
medium for resurrecting exploded fictions, for giving currency to the 
so-called protocols of the wise men of Zion which have been demon 
strated, as I learn, to be gross forgeries, and for contending that the 
Jews have been engaged in conspiracy to control the capital and the 
industries of the world, besides laying at their door many offenses 
against decency, public order and good morals. 

"Had I appreciated even the general nature, to say nothing o 
the details, of these utterances, I would have forbidden their circulation, 
without a moment's hesitation," 

There was more but that was the general tenor. He said those 
who knew him would bear witness it was not in his nature to inflict 
insult or occasion pain. He was very sorry and he would not do it again. 
Thus Ford went to Canossa. He did in the end what the late President 
Harding, Thomas Edison, his family, many clergy, and thousands of 
others told him to do in the beginning, but for seven years he had 
thumped the tocsin or condoned it. 

It broke as an utter surprise on those around him. He did not 
consult his $00, Cameron learned o the apology first when he read it 
in a newspaper. Counsel for Sapiro received an important telephone call 
a few days before the announcement and sought out counsel for Ford. 
He said he had been reliably informed that Ford was prepared to make 



PAPER POGROM 101 

proper amends for his attack on the Jews. "Harry/' said the Ford 
lawyer, "I have a feeling some one is spoofing you. I think I know Mr. 
Ford's attitude pretty well." 

"Well maybe so, but wouldn't it be well to make certain?" 
Gallagher suggested. The lawyer thought it might. 

"I guess you're right," Ford counsel reported on returning. 

The senior senator from Missouri, chief of Ford attorneys in the 
Sapiro case, telephoned from Texas, irascibly unstatesmanlike, to say, 
"What in hell is this I see in the Dallas paper?" 

The public proof of contrition evoked mixed sentiments. Some 
onlookers found hard to imagine the motormaker so wrapped in cotton 
wool that the major activity of his own magazine was unknown to him 
as unaware of what the Dearborn Independent was doing as if he had 
been a Tibetan monk. Some considered unimpressive his willingness 
to try to hide behind subordinates. Certainly, said one editor, it was un 
pleasant to find the printing press "set up by men so ignorant as not 
to know or so callous as not to care" what a press they owned turned 
out. The American Hebrew credited him with a distinction "he is the 
first man in history beguiled by anti-Semitism who has made public 
recantation." Some said it was a manly amend. 

Ford apologized probably for a number of reasons. He was 
bringing out a new car. He wanted a clean slate. He did not relish the 
boycott. It struck at the car, and the car was all. He had no appetite for 
a siege on the witness stand in the Sapiro case, and one of the accepted 
conditions under which the offer of retraction was made was that the suit 
would be withdrawn. It was settled out of court. There was a shadow 
of fear that the automobile mishap might have been a little more than 
he made out publicly. He may have been in a transitory penitential 
mood. The Astrologers' Guild of New York said he apologized because 
he had Mercury in the Third House while Jupiter and Uranus were 
over his Neptune, and that this fact convinced him he should no longer 
insult people. Maybe the astrologers hit it. 

Not only discontinuance of the hostile articles was ordered im 
mediately but the Dearborn Independent ceased publication the first 
of the year. Neither Cameron nor Liebold was beheaded, however. 
The editor went to Ireland with a Lincoln and the general manager was 
soon busy selling the Ford railroad. 

A month before the retraction Ford made up his mind definitely 



102 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

to wind up his assault. He called to Dearborn a Jewish lawyer with 
whom he had been long on good terms and announced his intention. 
He did not say why. He did say, however, that he proposed to burn a 
collection o anti-Semitic books, magazine articles and various clippings 
that had been acquired in the Independents research. His visitor pro 
tested. 

"Destruction isn't the answer," he said promptly. "You have a 
chance to do good with it." 

"How do you mean?'* 

"I would say the collection is unique," the attorney said. "Why 
don't you present it to the Hebrew Union College at Cincinnati?" 

He said the library was open to students and the public, and the 
material would give the former a chance, in their rabbinical studies, to 
acquaint themselves with some of the events in the history of Israel. 

"Not a bad idea," said Ford. "Yes, a very good idea." 

What disposal of the books and papers was made is not known, 
but they were not received in Cincinnati. 

A good friend got Ford to one side at a golf club after the 
apology and asked him why he had printed the articles in the first place. 

"I don't hate the Jews," he insisted; "I want to be their friend." 

"Then why " 

"The Jews have gone along during the ages making themselves 
disliked." Ford nodded over the good point he thought he was making. 
"Right ? They ignored their own splendid teachers and statesmen. Even 
they could not get their people to change some of their obnoxious 
habits." 



"I thought by taking a club to them I might be able to do it," 
said Ford. 



He revives the polka and 
quadrille and old-time fid 
dlers come running around 
the mountain to saw out the 
tempting tunes of his teens. 



CHAPTER VIII 
THE BALLET-MASTER 



' IS COMPEERS chose jade or racing stables, rugs or Raphaels; 
Henry Ford picked old-fashioned dancing as a relaxing 
interest. 

At first thought it seemed an odd selection because on 
the dance floor he had earnestness but never abandon, suppleness and 
dignity but never ecstasy, and always he was Henry Ford and seemed 
to feel he was on exhibition. It was not the aloofness of a Lorenzo 
watching the capers of serving folk in a Medicean scullery. It was a 
normal reserve to be looked for in a man of sixty, which was his age 
when he started to exhume the .old-time steps. A man of three 
score, full of fizz and sophomoric roughhouse would have seemed a 
ninny. 

The Fords got to talking with old friends in their playroom one 
evening about the dances they did in their youth. The era's hi-de-ho 
drew indictment and laughter and someone asked if the schottische 
did not go this way, and did Henry recall the gavotte, and each got up 
and demonstrated what little he or she remembered. They guessed at 
the tunes and patterns and calls, and there hardly would have been 
more excitement if the host had tripled the production wage rate. 

"Do you realize, Henry Ford, that we have danced very little 
since we were married?" reflected Mrs. Ford, as many a wife has said 
to a husband before her. The last guest had disappeared down the drive 
and they were alone and still in the grip of nostalgia or at least she 
was. He said he missed it, too. 

103 



io 4 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"It would do us both good," his wife suggested, "to take it up 
again/' and Ford agreed it might be fun. But "might be fun" was far 
from any firm commitment to do anything about it. 

Mrs. Ford's urging did bear fruit, however, for the telephone of 
Benjamin B. Lovett, in Hudson, Mass., rang some weeks later and 
Henry Ford wanted to know if Mr. Lovett, who had dance studios in 
Worcester and four other cities, could drop everything and come to 
Wayside Inn in Sudbury for a business talk. Inquiring about instruc 
tors familiar with period dancing, Ford had heard the name of Lovett 
mentioned and his talent commended. 

"I have been after Mr. Ford for some time to take up dancing 
again/' said Mrs. Ford, who was first to greet the teacher. "Now he's 
interested and I hope you'll help him." 

Ford joined them and straightway wanted to know if Lovett 
knew the Ripple. He was sorry he did not, he said, and noticed his 
host was elated. 

"Stuck him the first time." Ford turned to his wife and frowned 
mockingly. 

Next morning Lovett went stalking the unfamiliar Ripple. He 
rode out of Massachusetts empty handed into New Hampshire, and out 
of that state without a clue into Vermont. Ford would have liked his 
persistence. A woman colleague there told Lovett she had taught it 
ten years before. 

"Have you the calls?" he anxiously asked. 

She had, but they were at her cottage twenty miles away. "Well, 
jump in my car, won't you, and well go there." Lovett had no time to 
waste. Unfortunately, she said, the cottage was on an island and the 
road there was torn up. There was no way but to walk. He dropped 
her with a groan but found a male teacher farther on who offered 
real help. 

"That Ripple, Ben, is what we used to call the 'Newport, Down 
East/ w he said, "Remember?" He knew all about It. Lovett went back 
to Ford full of Ripples. A month later he went to Dearborn as the 
motor/maker's private dance instructor for a week-end or two and the 
week-ends stretched to twenty years. 

Upon their return Mrs* Ford proposed a daace in the bam of the 
homestead, so with a Halloween party in 1924 a crusade was born* 
Lovett came on. The weather turned bitter but the host waved a waad 



THE BALLET-MASTER 105 

and a steam-heating plant, installed in a few hours, made the place 
comfortable. 

Some say Ford set out to recapture the hour when his wife was a 
dark-eyed and graceful miss of eighteen and he had to outrun other 
beaux to her side when fiddles scraped and the grand march began. 
Others think his pick struck this new vein simply in his digging for 
McGuffey readers and antiques, and that all this was interrelated. 

Actually Mrs. Ford was the propulsion. Whatever the impulse, 
however, it was different with the Fords than with most people. The 
idyll of long ago is usually lost for good; the pressed flower in the book 
remains powder, but Ford had a commingling of zeal and wealth that 
was a magic restorative. The idyll could be made to throb again, the 
perfume of the flower recaptured. 

No narrow barn could contain any of his enthusiasms. If the 
idea was not contagious it could be made so. It would spread first to the 
pear countryside, to the nation in a month and eventually to far places. 
Word of the fancy would be wired and radioed and cabled. Copyboys in 
distant newspaper offices would take a sheet of flimsy from a pneumatic 
tube and lay it on the news desk, men in green eyeshades would head 
it, presses would rumble and over their morning coffee a clerk in 
Capetown, a banker on the Paris Bourse and a sheepherder in Montana 
would read of and muse over Ford's new caprice. Yes, the germ would 
spread. He would see to it. 

Four days later he sought a guinea pig and by great good luck 
found one right at hand. The pig may well have said, "Well, here we 
go again," but if it did, it took care to lower its voice and look over a 
shoulder to be sure no one was listening. Ford cleared appropriate space 
in his enormous engineering laboratory, signed up some musicians who 
knew the necessary melodies, invited Lovett to look on and get ac 
quainted, and asked thirty of his staff and their wives to help in 
broadening the experiment by trying the steps. 

Special flooring was laid. A craneway, installed against the day 
when Ford might want to build a locomotive, went into permanent 
eclipse. He wrote off the overhead machinery as something that seemed 
a good idea originally but was of no use to dancers of the lancers. 

Guests were harrowingly confused the first night. The caller 
could not explain his own calls. The older people who knew one or 
two steps tried ineffectually to impart what they knew to those who re- 



106 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

membered absolutely nothing of them, and finally a distressed Ford 
asked Lovett if he could straighten things out. 

"If you can, then you and I will run the show/' he volunteered. 

They succeeded in unscrambling the tangle, and when the dance 
broke up Ford knew he had his man and Lovett wired Mrs. Lovett to 
sell their business and pack. 

Possibly the executives were not bright, or it may have been they 
were undated by their expanded chores, for improvement dragged and 
Mr. Ford, who could be flint, took steps to speed perfection. 

"I tell you what we'll do," he announced, nice as pie, to the 
appalled group; "we'll have lessons every night until we get it right.'* 

So for two solid weeks the top brass came to work wilted by 
nightly polkas and wondering if and when in all hell it would end. 
But they learned how many steps to pace off to left and right and rear 
in the mazurka, and all about balancing partners and the indubitable 
difference between the chassS of the dance floor and the chassis rolling 
on the No. i assembly line. 

Ford treatment of the disinterred steps was characteristic. His 
tories were searched and a writer hired to discourse on the subject. An 
illustrated booklet appeared under the title "Good Morning" and sub 
titled, "After a sleep of 25 years old-fashioned dancing is being revived 
by Mr, and Mrs. Henry Ford." The first printing was 50,000. It was 
no shoestring crusade; it was to broaden and take in vast ground, and 
for his seat at the head of the captain's table Ford was to pay a huge 
cover charge said to have run into seven figures* His good wife may 
have started it but it was he who ran with the ball. 

The editor of the manual's forcpiece remarked that denunciation 
of dancing by protectors of public morals usually had been due to im 
portation of dances "foreign to the exprcssional moods of the people." 
And he added, with some puffing up o fact and possibly hired tongue 
in check, that "the tide now has swung in favor of dances described in 
the book*" If the tide was flowing in the direction of the quadrille, the 
usual measuring devices did not bear it out. 

An orchestra skilled in the old tunes was organized. Dances were 
diagrammed and rules of conduct drafted. A person attending a dance 
was counselled to appear in the "neatest and cleanest possible condi 
tion"; courtesy was urged and defined not as the mere observance of 
set forms but as doing "the things a generous thoughtfulaess would 



THE BALLET-MASTER 107 

naturally suggest/' and there were other sound words on manners 
which made anyone who read them realize how much had been 
sloughed off in the hasting o the race that might better have been 
retained. The manuals were largely, of course, to implement a plan 
which Ford had in mind for indoctrinating children. 

A large space was fenced off with canvas as a temporary ball 
room. Airplane motors stood high on the floor. A nearby press turned 
out the next issue of Ford's magazine. Men bent over blueprints of a 
dirigible a few yards from where the orchestra played Pop Goes the 
Weasel. The Bible said there was a time to dance. The time for Ford 
was any time he took it into his head. 

The makeshift space was to serve for 13 years until Lovett Hall, 
paneled chastely, floored with costly teakwood, furnished in English 
colonial and reached by winding marble, was so christened in Edison 
Institute. It was an unprecedented tribute because the anonymity of 
Ford officials, outside the head of the dynasty, was as rigorously pre 
served as that of the writers of Dana's Sun. 

Not more than nine months after the first party, Ford walked 
into the teacher's office and remained pensive for several minutes, look 
ing out a window at nothing in particular. 

"Mr. Lovett," he finally asked, "did you ever hear a saying: 
'Courtesy makes friends and good manners keeps them?'" 

"What's on your mind, Mr. Ford?" 

"We did not get much social training when I was a boy," Ford 
confessed frankly. "I have been wondering if we could not organize 
a dancing school for boys and girls of Dearborn." He hastened to say 
there would be more to it than merely instilling knowledge of the 
quadrille. "I'm not thinking so much of teaching them how to dance," 
he mused aloud, "but of teaching children the courtesy and conduct 
that go with the dance." 

Lovett saw possibilities. Yes, he had taught children. "All right," 
said Ford; "let's start a class at once." 

A class of eight boys and eight girls was organized, and the small 
original group grew into a larger one and the larger one sub-divided. 
The mission field was broadened and pupils multiplied until there were 
22,000 from the public schools in the area alone. Schools of higher learn 
ing added early American dancing to their curricula and offered them 
as credit courses Temple, Michigan, Radcliffe, Stevens, North Caro- 



io8 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Una, Georgia, Missouri. Under Ford patronage the Lovetts taught in 
the physical training departments of thirty-four universities, colleges 
and normal schools. 

Ford dancing parties were invariably on Friday nights and re 
sulted from his walking into the dancing instructor's office several days 
in advance and delivering his orders in some such form as, "Mr. Lovett, 
do you suppose we could have a party next Friday?" This was a fiat, 
not a question; no one ever said there could not be a party when Ford 
asked if there could be. 

If the host invited you to one of these events and you pleaded 
that dinner guests were coming to your home the same night eight 
een of them, in fact and it was therefore impossible for you to attend, 
Ford would likely say, "Bring them out here. What time will you 
finish dinner? Nine o'clock? I'll send cars." At 9, wherever you lived, 
you would glance out the window and a train of Lincolns or station- 
wagons would be at the curb. If you had Mrs. Wilkes of DCS Moines 
as a house guest, she would be most welcome, of course. If your 
daughter was home for the holidays, do bring her and her young 
man, too, if she cared to invite him. 

The host's hospitality was expansive and sincere. He would go 
out of his way to be gracious to the most obscure guest. When a father 
introduced his school-girl daughter, Ford would most probably say to 
her, "It would be an honor if you would grant me the pleasure of this 
dance/ 1 

A device seldom detected spared him discomfiture if he happened 
to draw a partner indescribably awkward. Take the case of Mrs. Wilkes 
or whoever she might be. 

"Mrs. Wilkes, may I have the pleasure of the next dance?" he 
would say, old worldlike and a little stilted, unless one was born in 
the Lincoln administration, as he was. 

You did not say, "Do you want to dance this one with me?" You 
did not applaud for encores unless reasonably sure that the partner 
wished to continue. You did not make a clash for the smoking room 
when the dance ended. When you retired after a dance you faced your 
lady ? made a slight bow and stepped back two steps so as not to be 
seeming to turn your back on her* It was all set down in the manual 
and Ford not only sponsored the book but followed it. 

*Tm sorry, Mr. Ford, but I don't know a thing, really, about 
these dances,*' Mrs. Wilkes might weakly plead. 



THE BALLET-MASTER 109 

"Don't mind that," he would say to stiffen her assurance; "FH 
show you. It is quite simple." 

If Mrs. Wilkes proved facile the dance continued to the end. If 
she was a thorough clodhopper and tripped over her feet and nearly 
dragged Ford down with her in her unsure gyrations, their circle of 
the floor was diplomatically interrupted more often than not by a third 
party who turned out to be Ford's dancing master. The interception 
was welcome to Ford, who did not relish doing hand stands, and 
equally to the lady, no doubt, who probably was as much demoralized 
and sick of it all as he. 

"I wonder if you will permit me to continue this dance with our 
guest, Mr. Ford?** the instructor would propose, as if he had just suc 
ceeded in getting up courage to cut in. 

"Mrs. Wilkes,'* Ford would say, stepping back a pace or two, 
"will you allow me to present Mr. Lovett, our teacher here?*' And then 
Mr. Ford, relinquishing Mrs. Wilkes, would act as though this inter 
ruption was a little disappointing to him and give the impression that 
apparently his teacher had become slightly inebriated by Mrs. Wilkes' 
beauty and nimbleness. 

So shortly Mr. Lovett would be shepherding the relieved lady 
around the floor and she would calm down and get clear in her mind 
which foot was which because she was no longer the center of all eyes 
she thought she was as Mr. Ford's partner, and was dancing merely 
with an instructor who magically, the good fellow, seemed to accustom 
himself to her misdeeds. 

Why old-time dances had been shelved in favor of such gymnas 
tics as Ford saw on screen and stage and in private ballrooms f his 
friends he could not discover but he tried his best. He thought the 
modern dance failed largely because it began and ended with a single 
couple and there was no group fun in it. 

Often when you were talking to him in office hours he would 
rise and stretch and suddenly shut out his empire, and he'd say, "Come 
on down to the dance floor want to show you something I learned 
last night." At the two bays reserved for his parties and rehearsals he 
would consult the musicians who were always in attendance and they 
would start to play as directed. He'd say, "It goes like this " and he 
would dance a few steps and ask what you thought of it. 

A dance known as a galopade, a Hungarian prance to polka 
time, was tried at one party and a dejected Ford dropped into one of 



no THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

the laboratory offices to lodge a complaint next morning against the 
occupant. 

"You didn't seem to get that step last night, Mr. Gray/' he said, 
sorrowfully and shaking his head from side to side as if Mr. Gray had 
cracked a piece of machinery which could not be duplicated. The pupil 
admitted not getting the hang of it. "Watch now and I'll show you." 
Ford got up and moved rhythmically around the room, humming as 
he walked the measures. "Now you try it," he suggested. 

The employee tried to synchronize his posturings with those of 
the boss but did not have success and he was also slightly dismayed by 
visitors and executives in adjoining offices who were watching the 
lesson through the glass partitions. To Mr, Ford, of course, the ab 
sorbed audience did not exist. His concern was in getting good Gray 
straightened out. 

"Lovett is on the dance floor right now." Ford finally stopped 
him. "You see him and hell clip off the rough edges." 

At such a ukase you left your desk, whatever or however much 
was on it, and did as told, but you knew the step when you returned. 
The two. Ford and Lovett, were an unfailing partnership. Ford was 
always like this, an apostle of ceaseless industry one moment, ordering 
executives to the training camp five minutes after to brush up on a 
dance evolution. 

He and Lovett did battle for years over how the Varsovienne and 
the five-step polka should be danced. They never did agree. The teacher 
stepped into the ballroom to find Ford demonstrating the French 
nougat for the benefit of Harry Bennett, head of his private police 
force. 

**Mr. Lovett doesn't teach it right," he overheard Ford say as he 
parted the curtains* 

The instructor made no comment but as the lesson proceeded he 
squirmed. 

"Well, you're paying for it," he finally broke restraint, "and if 
you want it that way you shall have it." Lovett thought he might as 
well go all out. "Let me tell you I would hate to have a teacher who 
knows the dance see you doing it that way/ 1 The writhing artist was 
in full storm now. "Know what he'd say ? He*d say, * Why in the hell 
doesn't Mr, Ford hire a teacher who knows his business?* ** 

Ford laughingly threw up his hands and quit dancing* "Never 



THE BALLET-MASTER in 

mind me, Harry; this Lovett knows his stuff. Do as he says," and he 
looked on meekly for another quarter hour while the teacher worked 
on the sweating gendarme. 

He had a fascinating story, he said, for me one morning. That 
was his word for it. He had come upon a copy of Harper's Weekly of 
1852 he was as excited as a boy who had found for the first time how 
to make a baseball dip and there was a remarkable article in it. 
Remarkable was his word, too. 

The French had invented a dance and called it the Varsovienne. 
Returning travelers apparently had told Harper's ship news men and 
said we ought to dance it over here. It was a standby at Ford parties 
but the country at large appeared to be unaware of it. He said I was to 
wait and he would send over to the house for the magazine so I could 
read the classic for myself. "A great story the birth of the Varsovi 
enne,'* he was muttering as he walked down the laboratory floor to tell 
a driver to go over home for it. 

He took the magazine after I had read it and sped up the floor 
to the photographic department, and we walked back to the dance 
floor while photostats were being made. 

"You remember it, don't you?" he asked. I knew the Astaires 
and the Castles, Pavlova and Doraldina, the first straw-skirt dancer, but 
I said unashamedly that I did not know the Varsovienne by that name 
but might if I ever saw it in front of me. 

"I'll show you," my host offered, and he demonstrated the steps 
which Paris was dancing when Louis Napoleon set up the Second 
Empire. 

I told him bluntly I still preferred Bill Robinson on a dance mat 
back in vaudeville's salad days but he only looked askance at me as if 
Robinson was a hula dancer and I a person of no taste. 

The Fords were light on their feet and well mated for dancing 
except that he preferred a slow full-swaying rhythm for the waltz and 
she favored more ginger. Dancing together, they stopped in front of 
Lovett at one party and the chatelaine of Fair Lane asked for a faster 
tempo. Ford protested the music was fast enough. Such tight situations 
were handled by racing up the tempo for thirty bars and then dropping 
back to the slower pace. 

"Are you trying to get me into trouble?" Lovett objected to the 
dilemma Ford put him in. 



ii2 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"I see you're a good strategist," was the answer, and that was 
all 

Privately, Ford could be as gusty as a teen-ager. A good friend 
who had been invited to see his antiques before his historical village 
was ready to receive them arrived one evening at the tractor plant with 
his wife. The watchman said if they walked down the hall over there 
they'd find both Mr. and Mrs. Ford waiting. "Can't miss them," he said 
confidently. 

Part way down the jogging corridor the arrivals could hear 
strains of music they could not identify and a tapping of feet, and 
rounding a corner they came upon a room housing harmonicas and 
Sheffield tankards, Heppelwhite and countless blue pottery jugs of the 
same design a phenomenon constantly recurring because Ford was 
always buying whole shops of antiques and snowed himself under with 
duplicates. 

To one side was a refectory table and sitting on it was Mrs. Ford, 
clapping her hands in time and tapping the leg of the table with her 
foot while in the middle of the floor the master of the house jigged and 
got a lively accompaniment out of a jew's-harp. 

"Come on along," he called as his guests hesitated at the door, 
taken slightly aback by the unexpected glimpse of domestic informality. 
The spell was broken. Mrs. Ford got oft the table. Ford put his jew's- 
harp in its special rosewood box. Regulation masks were readjusted. 

Nothing could have been more virginal than dancing at the 
Fords* but Isadora Duncan, international coryphee, rose up in Paris in 
the austerity of cheesecloth and sandals and laurel chaplet to point a 
finger and accuse Ford of surrendering to the sex instinct in reviving 
the old-time steps. The form might be different,, she admitted, but she 
said sternly- and luckily in front of an American newspaper corre 
spondent who may have hinted it might be a way to crash headlines 
that the ancient steps were based as much on sex appeal as were the 
Charleston and the Black Bottom. She WAS surprised at Ford and she 
said she would as soon teach children foul words. She was surprised 
for a whole column, 

"I believe all these dances are inadvisable for children," her 
protest ran, "and I mean children of 1850 or children of today. The 
aim of educators should be to teach children movement based upon 
youthful heroic impulses, not upon sex impulses. 



THE BALLET-MASTER 113 

"You, Mr. Ford, would not teach children the dicta of Louis XV 
or George III. You should not teach them the servile courtesan 
movement of the minuet or the coquettish sex expression of the 
polka." 

If Mr. Ford wanted her to teach real dancing to the children of 
America, all he had to do was send for her. She would come with joy 
and teach a dance which she said expressed the highest vision of the 
country as seen by the heroes of the Revolution and the great pioneers 
"a dance which will be worthy of Abraham Lincoln." 

Ford was busy with this and that and neglected to respond, fail 
ing even to cash his half of the publicity by a sharp rejoinder. He de 
cided not to wind himself in tulle or put a rose in his lips and went 
right on with his libidinous gavottes. 

He was a solicitous patron. If his dancing maestro made an error 
in calling a figure of the quadrille Ford would come to the rescue im 
mediately and say to those nearby that Lovett actually had not called 
the number in a long time. Of older people he was thoughtful. When 
he invited them the calls were made simple, the music slow. 

Ford talked little to his partner while dancing and seemed to carry 
his rectitude to the floor and make it part of his spinning. Mrs. Ford 
told you of the good book she had read, of the success of a new herb 
she had planted, of her roadside garden stands, of the goings and com 
ings of familiar neighbors, or of an interesting house guest and what 
made him so. It might be Will Rogers or Louis Bromfield, David 
Lloyd-George or some princeling, but her dance floor chitchat did not 
encompass world affairs any more than any one else's. 

He packed old dance orchestrations in his bags on Atlantic 
crossings, and one night on the Majestic when his host was breaking 
out champagne he left his glass untouched as usual and seized Mrs. 
Ford by the waist as the ship's band played a polka. On the Bremen 
when the orchestra struck up a melody several seasons later no one 
moved to dance but one couple. 

"In einem Jahrtausend habe ich solche MusiJ^ nicht gehort" 
muttered a fellow passenger on the rail beside Oswald Garrison Villard, 
the editor, and began to hum softly. 

"For a thousand years I would not know, bitte" said Villard, 
a but it is sweet and good to hear again." 

The only pair on the floor stood quietly for a moment getting 



ii 4 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

into the swing of the music, and then the Fords were away in a 
mazurka, dancing as if they had the ship to themselves. 

On the North German Lloyder he would dance every night and 
by day exclaim over the ship's bulbous underwater nose and sharp 
stern (the Germans got the idea by photographing a falling drop of 
water and Ford was intensely interested). He got the captain into a 
square dance, later sent him an automobile, and the captain wrote that 
he still thought running a ship was less a job than driving a car or 
stepping off the measures of a quadrille. 

At his own parties he provided the dancing maestro occasionally 
with the names of women guests with whom he wished to dance, some 
times as many as a dozen, and in such cases a circle formation was 
arranged. His own favorite remained the quadrille. The dance manual 
had the same kit-motif "Until one has known it, one has not known 
the most wholesome pleasure of dancing," He was first on the floor 
and last to leave. 

Groups in Hawaii and Puerto Rico asked instruction. Children 
in Greenfield Village learned the minuet and Negro children on or 
near his Georgia plantation danced the polka and had fun. The danc 
ing instructor's calendar spilled over with out-of-town engagements and 
the staff expanded. Young debs who danced at Dearborn returned to 
school in a glow, and soon disquieted managers of proms and cotillions 
decided to give the lancers a whirl and wrote in to learn how to manage 
it, half expecting Lovett to arrive in periwig by packet instead of bounc 
ing in promptly on a plane to coach them in the steps, 

Ford dances began at nine and ended at midnight. One had three 
hours of Ripple, Newport polka, valeta waltz, quadrilles and the rest of 
an assorted repertoire, and at 12 there were refreshments, with no 
double Martinis. There were no hat-check girls, no lushes in the lounge, 
no violets or kewpie dolls. No one rolled out a piano or bawled saffron 
lyrics, and no neckers ornamented the parked cars. The Fords preferred 
it that way, had it that way, and a lot of people were grateful for the 
nostalgic interlude. 

Grace was necessary, but not athleticism; there was a dulcimer, 
but no trumpet. It was the quadrille that ruled, not the conga, and no 
one did bumps or turned cart-wheels. A Godcy print became animated 
and swam before the eyes* It was fun. It was entertaining, at least, unless 
you were an executive and felt like homing in on a bad night. Wives of 



THE BALLET-MASTER 115 

some officials got a little difficult occasionally after a siege of it. "But my 
dear" and "Eton't dear me!" arguments developed over hints that it 
certainly was not mandatory, was it, to go to every party they could 
not be all musts, could they ? 

Ford dancing ended at midnight and the orchestra played Good 
Night, Ladies and Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party. Usually the entire 
party circled round the host and hostess and sang the old songs, and 
you got into your car without benefit of supporting concierge or boys 
down from the campus and unsteady at the curb. The night was tran 
quil and the wind off the close-by woods clean and sweet, and it was all 
singularly disconnected, somehow, with the night shift under neons at 
the Rouge not far down the road. 

It stopped as suddenly as it began. The Japs were at Pearl Har 
bor. Fourteen teachers enlisted or were drafted. A tired Lovett went 
back to New England on leave and quit for good the following year. 
The younger Ford died and a grieving father turned the key in the 
ballroom door. The boys who had danced swapped their slippers for 
combat boots and marched away to slog in the mud. Ford went into 
the plant to make the planes that gave them air cover. 



Children and unknown solo 
ists harrow from Ford's price 
less collection, and acrobatic 
hillbillies bang famed Strads 
against knee and elbow. 



CHAPTER IX 
SAD ARE THE GHOSTS OF CREMONA 



FORD ASSEMBLED one of the finest collections o violins in 
America and treated it with superb impiety as if the instru 
ments were books in a drugstore library to be loaned to 
friend or stranger for a night or two years, dependent on 
his mood. 

Shades of ancient masters may have held indignation meetings 
in the graveyards of Cremona and bewailed the irreverence; certainly 
there was bearishness over the practice where the buying and selling 
of such trophies are arranged today. 

Ford might lend a fine, sensitive instrument to a musician more 
used to a fiddle he could bat across his knee* He would turn one over 
to a stranger to whose playing he took a fancy. He would lend one on 
the recommendation of a friend* He thought he heard genius in a 
child's fumbling bow and ordered she be given a Strad a loan, of 
course to sec what she might do with a better instrument than her 
mail-order job* 

I was barely seated with a Manhattan expert recently when 
he asked of the condition of the Ford collection, Distress was in his 
voice. "Tell me," he quaveredj "in what shape is the Amati? Do you 
know?" The earliest purchase of the Dearborn pu1$a sahib was a 
fiddle of fabulously rich golden varnish and empyrean tone from the 
seventeenth century workshop of Stradivari's teacher. I had to say to 
the worried man I was wholly ignorant as an appraiser or reporter in 
the field, 

6 



SAD ARE THE GHOSTS OF CREMONA 117 

"The last time I saw it" the gentleman might have been the 
shocked curator of the Louvre who had come in some morning and 
found a toe off the Venus "it was nicked and the varnish was badly 
chipped." The man before me shuddered. He scowled at the memory. 
He wished Ford had used more perception. 

Unlike some collectors Ford had no desire to hoard or hide his 
acquisitions. He took no particular delight in getting them out in the 
quiet of home when he was alone and picking out a small melody for 
his ^ own ear. With the main body of fanciers, too, he recognized that 
a violin was made to be played and not primarily to be looked at, and, 
since he did not play skillfully himself, he was quite willing to have 
them played by those who knew how. 

Morgan the Elder paid $1,500 for his first painting when he was 
twenty-two; Ford put down $15,000 in his sixties for his first fiddle of 
note. His decision to collect dated to the 5 2o's and the reasons were two. 
One propulsion was a summer neighbor on Lake Huron, the other a 
repentant thief who decided after forty years to return what he had 
stolen. The neighborly influence was Rudolph Wurlitzer, founder of 
the instrument house of that name. Ford said to him one day, "I wish 
you'd send out some good violins for me to look over." 

The other event was more unusual. When Ford yielded to family 
entreaty and a bribe of forty acres of wooded farmland to stay home 
where he might amount to something and drop the preposterous idea 
of being a mechanic, he was twenty-one. He had gone into the 
shops of Detroit at sixteen and when he had first quit home he 
hung his violin on a hook in the barn. When he returned it was 
gone. 

The disappearance was long a mystery. It was a mill-run instru 
ment of no intrinsic value except in association and, if he had not had 
a prodigious memory for trifles, it probably would have been forgotten. 
In restoring the homestead of his birth, Ford remembered the name, 
make and model of a kitchen stove and the precise pattern of a parlor 
carpet. A lawyer would give him a curbstone opinion on some complex 
problem and be astounded a year later if he tried to reverse himself 
to get a quick "But a year ago you told me so-and-so," having almost 
his exact words flung back at him. A mind of that kind did not easily 
forget a vanished violin. A sweeper walked into Ford's private office 
with it two-score years later. He undid a bundle and sheepishly un- 



iiS THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

wrapped the violin of Ford's youth. When I saw the motormaker the 
next day he was still enormously excited. 

"What did happen to it?" I asked. 

The sweeper, who had been a neighbor boy in the township at 
the time, merely had taken it from the shed and now had brought it 
back, an undistinguished instrument but prized more than any of 
Ford's nobler additions. He put it to his shoulder as we stood there, 
and fingered the strings happily. The tone seemed of! to me but to 
him it was celestial. 

"Mr. Ford," blurted the man who had brought it back, after an 
uneasy shifting from foot to foot for a few nervous seconds, "this thing 
has been preying on me." He took a deeper breath. "Years ago I was 
playing with some boys in your paw's barn." He interlaced his fingers. 
"I was ten then and I saw this fiddle on a nail, and I always wanted a 
fiddle. Well, sir; I wanted it bad and I swiped it." 

Ford asked how he explained to his folks how he had come by 
the instrument, but didn't seem to be listening to the answer, being 
too busy examining what had been lost so long. 

"Told them it must have fell o a wagon and I picked it up 
by the road," the sweeper said. "That's a long time back, ain't it?" he 
remarked, as if to himself. He also might have been reflecting on the 
financial gulf between two country boys who had started from the 
same county line. "Got five children now/' he said irrelevantly. 

Ford said he was sure glad to get it back and to hear about the 
children, and thanks. 

"Oh, that's all right, Henry" it was Henry now that the sin 
was absolved. Tm certainly obliged for the loan." He turned and 
trudged out. 

I wanted to telephone rny photographer and perhaps have the 
return of the violin reenactcd, but Ford said the story was just between 
us. Publicity might embarrass the employee. 

In a playful moment a Detroit jurist, brought up in the Michigan 
copper country, asked aa orchestra leader at a neighborhood club if he 
could borrow his violin for a moment. When he returned to his wife 
and other members of his party he played a jig or two on it. He played 
softly, or so he thought, so not to attract the attention of other guests, 
but when ht had finished his impromptu concert an interested semi 
circle had formed behind him among them aa interested Ford 



SAD ARE THE GHOSTS OF CREMONA 119 

"Where did you learn to play those, Judge?" he asked. 

The jurist said tkat was the sort of music he danced to as a boy. 
Ford called another tune and asked if he knew it. Yes he played it. 
Did he know this one? Ford took the fiddle and played a few bars. The 
judge named it quickly. In his mail a day or two later was an envelope 
containing a guest card to Ford's golf club and on it was, "To a first- 
class fiddler better than H. Ford." 

Beatrice Griffin, a pre-war violin soloist on continental stages 
and recently back from Sweden, was one of the earliest to whom Ford 
played patron. Ossip Gabrilowitsch, conductor of the Detroit Sym 
phony Orchestra, engaged her as soloist while she was a pupil of his 
concertmaster, but the conductor was skeptical of the adequacy of the 
fiddle she played. It would redound to the girl's credit if Ford could 
be cajoled into loaning a violin for the debut but could it be nego 
tiated? 

There was little on which to base hope. When Ford had been 
approached for a subscription to the orchestra he was curt in say 
ing no. 

"Any top organization of any kind ought to be able to get along 
on a self-supporting basis," he worded his refusal. 

The conclusion was he had little interest in the music field, but 
still the hopeful Gabrilowitsch mentioned the need to a friend close to 
Ford. If he was cold to subscription campaigns, he was rarely indif 
ferent to appeals for help in particular cases. Ford telephoned a few 
nights later and asked if it was possible for the conductor to drop out 
to his home either this night or the next. Gabrilowitsch said, "Right 
away," and started. Alone in his house, Ford talked a half hour of 
everything but what had brought the orchestra maestro, exhibited his 
Americana, told of a recent visit with Fritz Kreisler, put himself on 
record as bored and bewildered by some music and captivated by other 
melodies. 

"Personally," he said, "I'm old-fashioned enough to like Stephen 
Foster's songs. " 

"Nobody," said the virtuoso, "is old-fashioned because he likes 
Foster, He's imperishable. His music will go on as long as Wagner's 
or Puccini's." 

"They'll be singing his songs, Mr. Gabrilowitsch, long after auto 
mobiles are out of date," Ford predicted. "Oh, by the wav about that 



120 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

young girl of yours. Would you mind picking out a violin for her 
concert?" 

He waved to a table on which a fortune in fiddles had been 
laid out. 

The conductor examined the lot admiringly but suggested that 
it might be better for the concertist to choose for herself if Ford didn't 
mind. Ford said he thought that would be better, and so for a one-man 
audience Miss Griffin played a couple of nights later a concert of simple 
melodies at Fair Lane, but found when she concluded she could not 
make up her mind between a 1709 Strad and a Guarnerius. She finally 
settled on the first, after some wrestling with herself. 

"It'll be delivered to you tomorrow," Ford promised; "and I'm 
grateful for a fine evening." 

He decided to reduce the mental strain on his new acquaintance 
by sending her both violins over which she had been torn in making 
a choice. His messenger brought them with him. "There is no hurry, 
Mr. Ford says, about returning them," he assured her. 

Miss Griffin retained the Siberian Strad for two years at Ford's 
urging. The violin took its name from the fact that in the 1870'$ it 
was owned in Ekaterinburg, close to the Siberian border, a little town 
which was to be in the cables a half century later when, in one of its 
cellars, a Bolshevik firing squad brought to an end the ruling house of 
Russia. The fiddle, its head and rich plum varnish considered excep 
tional, remained in the Urals until the *8o's, when it reached a London 
dealer who sold it in Cairo. In 1910 it was held in England, and still 
later went to a Berlin collector. 

The Guarnerius, product of Stradivari's most gifted pupil, Joseph 
Guarnerius del Jesu, and known as the ex-Doyen, previously belonged 
to a Paris amateur of that name who had owned at the same time the 
Kreutzcr Strad, now at Oxford, and Ford was charmed the first time 
he ran a bow over it. Its varnish is rich golden reel, its tone as robustious 
as Paganini proved the Guarnerius to be. 

Violins were usually demonstrated in Ford's private office. The 
dealer's agent acquainted him with the fiddle's history. There were 
the customary holes in it* Violin biographies are notoriously fragmen 
tary. The art in Cremona reached its peak more than two centuries 
ago and surviving examples naturally have passed through a host of 
hands* The situation is also complicated by those copied and mis- 



SAD ARE THE GHOSTS OF CREMONA 



121 



labeled. Strads extant number about 400, and a few more than half are 
in American collections. 

An offered instrument was played for an attentive satrap at 
Dearborn. Usually the music was a few bars from Home, Sweet Home 
and invariably there was a familiar jig. (Not long after the Ford Sun- 
day Kadio hour was launched, the motormaker felt that Turkey in 
the Straw should be sandwiched between The Bartered Bride and 
Beethoven's Emperor piano concerto, and from then on musicians 
accepted it as dc rigueur since it was a sock hit with the sponsor.) 

He might on occasion run a bow over the strings himself. He 
made up his mind quickly. There was no bargaining over price if he 
was taken by a fiddle. If he did not want what was shown him, no 
cut rate would make a difference. He did not want a violin because it 
was cheap but because it appealed to him-and he had a rare tonal 
sense. 

"No, I just don't like it," he might say. 

Or he might break in on a tune, carry a fiddle to a window to 
examine its varnish and design and state of preservation, or pick at 
the strings himself. 

"It's a good job," he used to say when his mind was favorably 
made up. "Give him a check." 

The description "good job" seemed to stick in the memory of 
the seller. No one heard any other collector put it quite that way and 
the trade smiled a little but said, why not? After all, that's what a 
violin was or wasn't. Ford had no time for studio patter. 

The vault filled. Came the Bergonzi of 1746, a type considered 
distincdy^ unusual; the storied Maud Powell from the workshop of 
Guadagnini, a Strad of 1703 once owned by Sir William Curtis, mayor 
of London; several bows of Francine Tourte $3,000 to $5,000 for these 
with a particularly opulent example in original tortoise shell, precious 
stones to each side of a gold-mounted frog and in the end a rare pearl 
screw button, which had belonged to the Russian ambassador to France 
of the First Empire, and a viola of Jacob Stainer of the Tyrol 

Ford made concessions to orthodoxy. Since the collection was 
housed in a steel vault, the instruments were taken out and rubbed 
every ninety days with an olive oil and alcohol mixture. Each was con 
tained in a silken bag and in each sack was a sliced potato to provide 
the necessary moisture. Every three months a symphony violinist came 



122 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

to exercise them and play first one and then another throughout the 
day. 

Absent-minded at times, Ford might drop into the secretarial 
office and remark that he guessed he would take the Guarnerius home 
for the night. It might be gone a couple of months, and then one 
morning he would walk in and ask for it. "Don't you remember, Mr. 
Ford, that you got it some time ago and you said at the time you were 
taking it home?" It was no use mentioning that also at the time Ford 
said he would have it back next day. 

"I did?** he would exclaim when reminded he had gone off with 
a violin a long time back. "Wonder what I did with it," he would say, 
surprised but seldom disputing. 

He always seemed to find and return any missing violin or watch, 
but where he kept them in their absences from the regular depository 
no one ever knew except him. He seemed to be able to go straight to 
them when the subject was brought up. Once he had been using the 
side of a haystack as a pillow for a nap and left a fiddle in the field 
overnight, 

If a guest, close or casual, happened to admire one of the Strads 
and show a glimmer of musicianship Ford was likely to say: "Want 
to take it home and try it? Go ahead." The visitor might think the 
magnanimity could not be true but soon would be walking out with 
the treasure. 

A teacher in chapel might speak well of a child and confide that 
Harry, the boy ia the third row, second seat in, seemed to have a 
soupjon of talent as a violinist. Ford might appear in the classroom 
doorway some morning later with a $5,000 to $20,000 violin in hand 
and suggest that Harry be allowed to try it for a clay or a week or 
more to see what he could do on a good fiddle* It was a bounty appal 
ling to those who looked ujxm the instruments as relics to be cosseted 
and handled gingerly against the inevitable day of final extinction* 

I put the protest up to Ford once. 

"Take that Messiah Strad in England,'* he retorted, rather point- 
lessly, it seemed* "It needs BO more attention than occasional new 
strings and a little glue*** 

"But the Messiah,** I suggested ? "has careful museum attention 
and is not loaned to the first fellow who comes along*** 

"Playing on them doesn*t hurt them,** Ford persisted, sure of 



SAD ARE THE GHOSTS OF CREMONA 123 

his ground here as he was sure of most things. "It's not playing on 
them that injures them." 

Ford heard with appreciation a pupil o Jacques Thibaud who 
made his debut at the age of seven with the Los Angeles Philharmonic 
and came East in time and went an to Europe and Australia before 
the war, to concertize triumphantly. He was Grischa Goluboff, a 
Californian. 

His radio debut in Detroit as a soloist with Victor Kolar con 
ducting on the Ford Sunday Evening Hour in 1934 suggested a happy 
promotional idea. Would it not be splendid if Grischa, then twelve, 
would play one of Ford's own violins? The boy might be a child of 
destiny. There were some who thought the fact that Grischa was a 
young Jew and Ford had apologized profoundly only a few years 
before for a long attack on Grischa's people was not outside the calcu 
lations. Lending the boy one of his great violins might be considered 
a token gesture of continuing abnegation. 

No critic failed to note that Master Goluboff had played the 
Tschaikowsky concerto and Sarasate's Caprice Basque on a $100,000 
Stradivarius from the Ford collection, although the figure was pub 
licity fiction. None of the instruments in the Dearborn vault approached 
that figure or came to half it. Some $35,000 was paid for one violin 
but that was approximately top. 

The carping reviewers said the young prodigy played with ob 
vious nervousness, which may have been natural in a twelve-year-old 
drawing a bow over a borrowed Strad, but Ford took the nettles out 
of the notices by going backstage to compliment the soloist and to tell 
him he was exceedingly good; and he offered more proof of his favor. 

"Why don't you take the Strad along with you," he suggested, 
"and play it all season?" 

Ford slapped the boy on the shoulder and said to go right ahead 
and use it by all means. Goluboff kept it for the season. 

From time to time Ford seemed to surrender to the remonstrances 
of those about him and agree that his might not be the best way to pre 
serve a collection. He would reform! Violins outstanding would be 
recalled and repaired when necessary, but the reformation was short 
lived. The half -million collection would be back clandestinely on lend- 
lease in no time. The promise of restraint was largely made with mental 
reservations, even though the return of some prized fiddle in disrepu- 



124 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

table repair might annoy him temporarily and incline him to the idea 
that maybe he was too prodigal. 

When the urge to munificence was stronger than his will to be 
stern he would circumvent the custodians and multiply secretarial 
fretting by going into the vault himself, without announcement, taking 
the violin he desired, and disappearing with it without record of the 
name of the man or woman, boy or girl, who next day would have it. 

This easily could be managed by the ruse of dispatching sec 
retaries on errands to distant points so he might rummage unseen in 
his own vault, or he might get the wanted violin during his nightly 
tours. It was never uncommon for a watchman to run into the boss in 
the plant at any hour of night, bent on some little task that had just 
occurred to him and which could not wait until morning, he thought; 
or it might be he was there for no other reason than to see how his 
Antaeus had made out in the day's grind. 

Violins of lesser breed had a Renaissance of their humble own 
when Ford took to dancing. Fiddlers of hoary strains came out of 
their cracks everywhere. Instruments long stowed in garrets emerged 
in roughened hands of pleasant rustics and set up a national cater 
wauling. The revival produced, among others, a foeman who shamed 
Ford by the length of his press clippings. Name: A. Melanson Dunham. 
Age: seventy-two. Home: Norway, Maine. Mellie made snowshoes 
but his principal claim to stardom was that he was "champion" fiddler 
of his state. Ford asked him to perform at Dearborn, and Dunham, 
who looked every ruddy inch a Santa Glaus, proceeded to make a 
novice of Ford at wangling headlines. 

He was one of the numerous champs who bounced from caves 
and walked down the mountains when the countryside found the 
old dance steps not so stale and joyless as it may have thought them at 
first. A Tennessee gallant claimed to have won an old-time fiddling 
title ia Texas and flung shrill challenge at pretenders. A Hopedalc, 
Mass,, contestant won a loving cup by beating 200 others ia a radio 
tourney, Ford and Thomas Edison found and lionized a Jep Bisbec, 
o Michigan, being so captivated that he was hurried to Jersey to be 
recorded on platters, and Mr. Ford shipped him a sedan in admiration. 
Hundreds o others had their ringing say about their own merit* 

Dunham was a wrinkled glamor boy and a Disney character, 
and Ford was only a member of the supporting cast from the hour 



SAD ARE THE GHOSTS OF CREMONA 125 

that Mellie, on his way to Dearborn, stepped out of a weather-stained 
farmhouse in which he was bom until he landed on the stage of the 
New York Hippodrome as a feature act next in billing to Miss Irene 
Franklin. He made only one concession to the gala journey. His wife 
helped him pick out a new ninety-cent cap before he set out for the 
empire of Ford in a private railroad car, handsomely bannered, on a 
honeymoon trip for which he and Ma had waited fifty years, and 
waved off by an exultant town. 

The Boston Post, which seemed to have men stationed at every 
stop, reported him in khaki shirt open at the throat, no collar, tie or 
vest; a pair of homespun trousers slightly the worse for six years' wear 
and a pair of woodsman's heavy boots. Dunham was smart, had smart 
advice, or had no other pants. He never overdid his prominence. 

Ford sent a personal representative in a Lincoln. Ralph O. Brew- 
ster, the present senior senator from Maine, then Governor, dispatched 
a colonel from his staff. Five thousand thronged the train shed. Placards 
shouted: One of Nature's Noblemen and God Speed You, Merrie 
Gentleman and Mellie Witt Fiddle and Henry Will Dance and Send 
Them Bac\ Safely, Henry. Movies shot them, the high sheriff rode a 
horse at the head of a police escort, Mellie doffed his cap and Ma waved 
her handkerchief, and guardsmen had to poke a lane through the jam 
to the coach steps. 

Fred Sanborn, the town editor, gave $25 for tobacco money, 
though Mellie didn't smoke. The postmaster climbed aboard with a 
pouch of fan mail. A band played Till We Meet Again as the train 
pulled out, and the Dunhams cried a little in passing a cemetery where 
their only daughter was buried. The governor himself mounted a milk 
truck at South Paris and wished them well. Their nine children came 
aboard to be kissed. 

"Now, listen," said Ma to the eldest, 'look out for those kids. 
Send the papers to Rose. Send the baby his stockings and look out for 
everything I've told you to do." 

They gave him a diary and at Island Pond he made his first 
entry: "Me and Emma are having the time of our lives." The train 
was off for Montreal. 

"Nice seats; I like 'em," remarked Mellie. He found farther on 
that he could open a Pullman window and he stuck his head out to 
say hello at Berlin, New Hampshire. "Get his head in before he loses 



126 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

it!" shrieked Ma, "Give him a whack before I do." The Canadian 
Snowshoe Club tendered a dinner at Montreal. At midnight he was 
back on his first railroad sleeper. "Kind of a slimpy bed," he suggested, 
"But I suppose we got to try everything they put in front of us." 

At Dearborn, Mr. Ford was also there. Mr. Dunham, the bon 
vivant, charmed the guests with his tunes and informality, his blue eyes 
and his unconcern over where he was and everything that had gone 
before. 

Then, a little to Ford's secret admiration, Mel went back to 
Norway, mailed his recent host a laconic post-card: Thanhs for good 
time, organized some townspeople into an act, and went trouping in 
vaudeville, giving an approximation of a New England barn dance. 

"He did pretty good for himself, didn't he?" granted Ford after 
ward. It was understatement. 

His experience with another violinist did not throw Ford off 
stride quite as much as his unsettling encounter with the champion 
of Maine. He bought Botsford Inn, a tavern where it was not uncom 
mon in the old days to find a thousand Detroit-bound cattle in the 
yards while their owners relaxed at the bar. 

Ford put in courting mirrors, colored prints that had tickled 
Grandpa into spasms, created an old-fashioned garden of sweet William 
and pinks and mignonette and lilacs, brought up a forest of pine from 
his own farm and replanted it to the rear of the tavern; on a nail 
in the hall hung a size 22 collar of John L. Sullivan. Long before a 
gentleman on a dance floor began to throw his lady the length of the 
hall, they used to find gayety here in the Flower Dance, the Prince of 
Wales schottischc and the New York polka. 

When he owned the inn he asked about musicians who used to 
play there. That is how Vaughnlcy Gunning came to be mentioned. 
He had a farm down the road a piece now* We started. I remember 
coming on a farmer along the way who was leaning on his plow 
handles and Ford saying; "We've too many farmers who plow with 
one-eighth of an eye on the plow and the other seven-eighths looking 
for a real-estate subdivider." 

Gunning laughed as if he'd split at the idea he should come to 
the inn and play, 

"Me?" He put down his milking pails. He was seventy-three, 
He extended his gnarled hands. "Look at them/* he said. He was too 



SAD ARE THE GHOSTS OF CREMONA 127 

sick, besides. He wasn't feeling pert at all. Not him, he said. "Glad to 
see you any time, Mr. Ford, but the answer as to whether I'll play at 
the tavern is no." He smiled ruefully, and picked up his pails again. 

No one could lick the rock in Ford so easily. He was back in 
two weeks. Gunning apparently had been thinking over how good he 
used to be. He was not so obstinate this time. "I tell you," he finally 
said, "I'd kind of like to play my old violin again but it's out in Kansas 
City somewhere." 

Telegrams flew to Ford dealers in the area. The boss wanted a 
certain violin. Drop everything! Maybe it was at the home of a Gun 
ning relative. He had provided that frail clue, but Vaughnley had said 
he wasn't really sure where the fiddle was. It was located and flown 
to Dearborn for a test run and lubrication job. 

Restoration of the tavern moved apace mohair in the parlor, 
bedeviling pictures like "The Sailor's Adieu" and "Godey's Fashions of 
1864" for the walls, yarn-winders and powder-horns, hot charcoal foot- 
warmers and a fire horn given to a long-dead and forgotten Captain 
Davock in 1846. Ford even got some gophering irons with which 
Grandma curled her bonnet ribbons. The bar was polished. Grandpa 
Botsford had once bought rye there, the books said, at sixteen cents a 
gallon wholesale and marked it up to twenty-five cents over the counter. 

Ford packed the rejuvenated Gunning fiddle under his arm and 
went back to the farm. 

"Well, here it is," he said. "Now how about playing?" 

The man who used to play at the inn raised it to position. His 
unpracticed fingers fumbled at first, but the touch grew surer, the 
music jiggier. In a month, Mr. Gunning reported for duty and the 
Fords and their friends often danced late to his effervescent music. 

An engine that conked out over the Atlantic brought pain to 
the collector of fiddles and fiddlers, however. The hobby threw Ford 
and a fine old player of Money Musf^ together, and the violinist told 
Ford one day that the song of the propeller seemed to be ringing in 
his young son's ears as other lads had listened to siren winds in the 
rigging of four-masters or watched an express train pass and felt a 
fierce urge to drive one. 

"Send him to Dearborn and let me talk to him," Ford said help 
fully. 

Harry Brooks was nineteen. He put on overalls, worked as 



128 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

riveter, learne.d designing, testing in a year and a half was chief test 
pilot. He flew Lindbergh's mother to Mexico City. He winged back 
and forth from plant to nearby suburban home in what he and 
the man who worked with him called a flivver plane twenty-five feet 
oE wingspread, that's all but Harry dreamed great dreams of it, one 
of breaking the world's record for distance. Ford said to Harry's father, 
"You know, he does to a plane what you do to a fiddle." 

To see how much the bantam plane could take Brooks set out 
from Detroit for Florida. The pilot got to Titusville, Florida, and had 
to sit down to await a new propeller. He climbed for the last lap to 
Miami, when it arrived; set out over an upset ocean. Watchers followed 
him, a diminishing dot in a black sky. A battered plane was washed 
up on a littered beach next day. The sea had swallowed the fiddler's boy. 



A Millionaire applies spit and 
polish to a humpty-dumpty 
railroad, rides the swaying 
coal of the tender, promotes 
a crap game. 



CHAPTER X 
THE LITTLE TOY TRAIN 



ONE IS undecided where to hang emphasis in a discussion 
of Henry Ford, railroader on a crap game he maneuvered 
with an all-colored cast in the diner of his special train or 
on the fact he took a line which had one foot, or both, in 
the grave, made it the only American road in technicolor and after nine 
years sold it at a profit of $9,000,000. 

Under his sponsorship, wherever the underscoring belongs, old 
No. 424 and her cronies in the roundhouse flounced around curves with 
coquettish and nickled swish as if they had just bounced out of Adrian's. 
A vacuuming of the road each morning hardly would produce a full 
dustpan. The almshouse atmosphere disappeared. The Detroit, Toledo & 
Ironton became a lady under his management and a respectable carrier 
which demanded and got value for her favors. 

Admirers of Ford insisted at the time that those running other 
lines were slowpokes and even scoundrels and that he ought to be czar 
of the country's transportation. Perhaps, they said, the need of govern 
ment financial help for railroads was less than the need of six Henry 
Fords to run them wisely. 

Critics said his railroad was a plant facility, wondered if an in 
genious way had not been found to evade the law on rebates, and 
asserted that under the same set of circumstances any road would pay. 
To rivals he was a crazy influence and they were not friendly to his 
entrance into the field. No one ran up to embrace him or to say, "Glad 
to have you with us, Mr. Ford." 

129 



130 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

It is sometimes wisdom to take second things first, despite the 
claim to the contrary, so the dice game is promoted to significance 
because it seemed so to those who saw it. 

Ford headed an inspection tour south a few days after taking 
over the road. With him were a dozen members of his staff and two 
other consultants, Frederick Osborn, then president of the D. T. & L 
and a major general on the Army General Staff in World War II, 
and Kenneth Chorley, division superintendent at the time and cur 
rently president of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia restoration of the 
Rockefellers. 

Ford and the two experienced railroaders were so absorbed that 
until they dispersed at midnight no one noticed that the rest of the 
party, together in the observation car earlier, had drifted off and appar 
ently had gone to bed. As the remaining three broke up and walked 
through the train, they learned the true reason for the desertions. On a 
table in the diner the absconders were shooting dice ancl a player was 
trying to make a point of four against united opposition and the usual 
catcalls. Edsel Ford was among them but the senior Ford seemed tired 
and indifferent. He said good-night pleasantly enough and went on to 
his compartment. 

Business discussions were resumed next morning. It was during 
a pause and without turning in his seat that Ford said to his son 
directly behind him, "Edsel, what was that game you were playing last 
night?" 

"It was craps, Father," the son responded 

"I thought so," the senior Ford reached for the porters* belL 
"George," he asked when one responded, "do you shoot dice?" 

The attendant said he did not, 4< I got myself religion a while 
back, Mr. Ford," he reported, "and I'm through with gambling." The 
sinner who had quit the primrose path asked i there was anything 
else. 

Ford asked about the other porters. A half dozen were rounded 
up. Did they shoot craps? They certainly did yes, suh, Mr. Ford! 
This was apparently a aew boss of delightful tastes. Did they roll dice? 
Mao, oh man! 

**Well that's fine/* the man in the lounge chair said. "We're going 
to have a big game in the diner after lunch," 

The porters withdrew, highly pleased. Executives on the side 



THE LITTLE TOY TRAIN 131 

lines glanced at one another in some perplexity. Ford asked the con 
ductor to stop the train at the next station and wire ahead for a half 
dozen Mason jars and $30 in nickels, and when the party went forward 
to the dining car in mid-afternoon he was sitting at a table and in 
front of him were the six glass jars, each holding five dollars in nickels. 

Tables were moved to the far end of the car to provide a clear 
floor for play and the master of ceremonies announced the rules. It was 
to be freeze-out. Loss of all the coins in any jar eliminated the owner 
of the jar. Whoever won all the change was to be adjudged champion. 

The start was quiet but the tempo picked up as first one player 
and then another dropped their stakes. When only three remained the 
fray took on the usual emotional overtones of a hard fought dice game, 
as points were thrown and made, tossed and lost. 

The porters on the floor put in extra digs. They wriggled, ex 
horted, sweated, rolled their eyes, squirmed, talked to the tumbling 
ivories affectionately and not so affectionately and worked their wrists 
and elbows with flourish. In the end the steaming victor alone remained, 
flat on his stomach with arms about the stakes an hour's perspiring 
battle had won. If Ford wanted entertainment the porters gave a 
bang-up show. 

"That was good work," he congratulated the winner, and he 
thanked the others for a fine if not as lucky an exhibition. The audience 
filed back into the observation car, still wondering slightly at the mean 
ing of what they had seen, and got down to serious conversations again. 

Another break occurred a couple of hours later and Ford made 
his point on the crap game he had staged. In a lull he said: "I 
THOUGHT, Edsel, that craps was a colored man's game." No more 
was said, but Ford had made clear by the histrionics of the diner he 
considered dice undignified for a member of his personal household. 
He still thought of the game in terms of his own youth before five 
million doughboys came back from the camps of Europe, schooled in it 
as well as in arms. 

Ford and the D. T. & I. entered into wedlock over the opposition 
of almost his entire organization. His counsellors thought he was too 
deeply involved in other activities and said this rather sotto voce 
another good reason for leaving the deal alone was that he knew noth 
ing about running a railroad. 

But the road's light, twisting and senile rails ran south 380 



132 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

miles from Detroit to the Ohio River and strategically crossed every 
main line railroad east and west. They offered access to coal fields of 
three states. Speed was essential to get his huge volume to assembly 
points and slash the time of inventory in transit. What he wanted most, 
however, was a continuous flow of coal to his voracious furnaces. 

Osborn had a plan for a bond issue to develop a terminal serving 
industries in southwest Detroit. Rail congestion was bad at that point 
and companies were pretty much at the mercy of the Pennsylvania and 
New York Central. He got a good commitment from an alkali company 
and then went to Dearborn to see if Ford could be interested. 

The road's inadequacies were not hidden and could not be. It 
had not paid a dividend in fifty years. It had been through one wringer 
after another. Tracks, cars and engines were largely worn out. Osborn 
drew an honest but hardly rosy picture for a prospective investor. 

But the railroad's losses, he argued, were due primarily to a 
single cause* Since it controlled no traffic, the road received something 
less than a switching charge from big operators as its proportion of 
rates from Detroit to both seaboards. 

He had a cure. "If we can go to main junction points and dicker 
on a basis of a large quantity of high-grade carload freight," he told 
Ford, "they'll be forced to grant the D. T- & I. a fairer division. Thus 
the road will jump into the black immediately." 

Ford took Osborn out into the shop to see some experimental 
motors and invited him to come back next day when the senior Ford 
outlined the idea sketchily but enthusiastically to Edsel and other top 
executives. 

"What about buying the road, Edsel? 1 * he wound up, 

The junior Ford said he liked the possibilities. 

"How much can we have it for?" Ford turned on Osbora. 

"Five million." 

"Well take it." Ford got up from the table. He paid 60 cents a 
dollar on the bonds, $5 a share for the preferred, $* for the common, 
and assumed $1,800,000 in first mortgage and car trust bonds. 

When Osborn returned in two weeks to close the sale a Ford 
lieutenant had engaged Ford, Bacon & Davis to report on the road 
aad said Ford Motor could not go ahead with the purchase until the 
report was in* The proposed postponement was a surprise to Ford 
himself. 



THE LITTLE TOY TRAIN 133 

"Who are they?" he demanded. 

They" were engineering consultants who would prepare an in 
ventory. 

"Mr. Osborn has told us the engines are broken down, that the 
road has no cars to speak of and the rails are rusted out," broke in 
Ford, not one to be braked by cautious counsel if his mind was set. 
"All they have so far as I can see is a right of way to the Ohio River. 
They have been operating a hundred years and I guess they must 
own it." 

He opposed delay. "Tell those engineers we don't need them," he 
ordered. 

The bride came to him with hardly an unraveled stitch to her 
back. The D. T. & I. boasted no crack Pyrenees-Cote d'Azure Ex 
press or blue trains. It had no spas or scenery to charm travelers. An 
overall antiquity gave the impression that Jesse James or Geronimo 
lurked in the woods along the roadbed and was likely to ride down on 
engine and crew at any time. Scenario writers might glamorize the 
Union Pacific, but no one hurried down a plush hall to see Mr. Mayer 
or Mr. Goldwin to urge there was good movie material in the de 
spondent D. T. & I. and its 26 reorganizations. 

After the first inspection under his ownership I asked Ford if he 
still liked his buy and what kind of a trip he had. 

"We weren't scalped," he shrugged, "but otherwise we were back 
in pioneer days. We can do a lot with it, though." 

Osborn had been right. In three months an agreement was 
negotiated with intersecting main lines under which the D, T. & I. 
got an average rate boost of .018 cents per ton-mile as against six or 
seven mills per ton paid previously. Some carriers considered the per 
centage excessive but they knew Ford could divert his huge tonnage 
elsewhere if they balked. 

He bought locomotives and flat cars and coal cars, and when he 
found new engines came to $60,000 apiece he rebuilt old ones for $35,000 
and they turned out good as new. The glandular treatments kept many 
a locomotive on the tracks long after it was thought ready for the 
taxidermist. He loved to take the bones of old engines and fit them 
back snugly into their original sockets. 

Maintenance costs seemed high and he approached his super 
intendent with a proposal to build track on steel ties laid in cement. 



134 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"It won't work, Mr. Ford," the seasoned railroader said. On 
curves he was sure it would be fatal. 

"But why?" 

"You cannot operate on a rigid rail/' he demonstrated with 
pencil and paper how a track moved under a train. 

Ford didn't believe it. He proceeded to construct a long stretch 
of track laid on steel sunk in concrete. He was fair about it, too he 
put a curve in it and the whole cost him several hundred thousand 
dollars. 

The road done, he wanted a train run over it to see if he was 
right or wrong. A locomotive and two passenger cars were detached 
from regular service but it was not so easy to find an engineer and 
fireman who were willing to risk their necks. The hitch was overcome, 
however, when two fearless lads consented and Mr. Ford invited friends 
to see his* vindication or whatever might come. 

The train clattered down the solid track to the curve and once 
on it, climbed the rail, as predicted, and ran off like a race-horse leaping 
the infield fence and quitting the track* 

"Do it again." The boss man was unconvinced. 

The second run was a repetition but Ford was still unsatisfied 
and demanded a third performance. It went no better than the other 
two, 

"That'll do tear up the track!" he turned away and said he 
guessed it wouldn't work. He had to see for himself. It was the way 
he learned his lessons. 

Wages were rescalecl He sent for Charley and wanted to know 
how much engineers, firemen, brakemen and lesser fry got and how 
many hours they worked. He wanted to change all that and named 
figures substantially above prevailing rates* 

"Also** he surprised Chorley* 4 ! want to pay engineers as much 
as conductors.'* 

The superintendent said this was a rucle violation of practice, that 
the conductor was boss of the train* It was because he was in charge 
and responsible for the train's operation that he got more money than 
the engineer, but Ford, engineer himself, disputed the logic. With a 
head full of novel notions he quarreled with custom persistently* 

"All a conductor does on a passenger train is to pick up a few 
tickets/* he persisted, belittling that worthy's role* **And what does he 



THE LITTLE TOY TRAIN 135 

do on a freight train? He sits pretty in a caboose." In his voice was 
triumph. No, sir, the responsibility was the engineer's. Pay him as much 
as the conductor! 

He was reminded there was a little matter of wage arrangements 
with the railroad brotherhoods. What about existing agreements? It 
was a problem the superintendent thought well to discuss with War 
ren S. Stone, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. 
Stone was interested and reassuring. 

"Put the rates into eftcct," he smiled, "and there'll be no diffi 
culty." 

Stone revealed a little more of what he was thinking when 
Chorley reached for his hat. 

"You see where this puts me, Mr. Chorley," the union chief re 
marked. "I am now in stronger position to get increases from other 
roads." 

Engineers and conductors on the Ford roster got $375 for 208 
hours, their fellows on other lines $250 to $275 for the same time. In 
the lower brackets rates were proportionately higher than on other 
roads. The lowest-paid D. T. & I. employee received $1,872 for 2,496 
hours a year. Employees of other lines in the same class averaged $1,538 
for 2,584 hours. 

Whole trains were bathed and scrubbed and varnished and tight 
ened. Ballast was neatened, cutoffs built, curves and heavy grades elimi 
nated. Industries along the line were asked to clean up and to move 
back in some cases to reduce the chance of sideswiping. Roundhouse 
walls were painted white and washed daily. Even the inside of 
desk drawers got the same color so any dirt would be sure to 
show. Out with all dinginess! 

Aluminum floors were laid in cabs, fixtures were nickeled, chairs 
with nine-inch spring-cushion seats eased the rumps of engine crews. 
The countryside was dazzled by the make-up and took some time to 
become used to the new cosmetics. 

For the dictatorship of precedent Ford substituted his own 
authoritarianism. He would have no smoking. He shut down Sundays. 
Engines had to be cleaned after each trip. Titles were out. 

Claims for personal injury or freight claims were to be wound 
up in a week or less, but one wasn't. No. 5, south bound, sailed off the 
tracks and turned over near a small Ohio town, but only one person 



136 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

was seriously injured. Adjusters located all but a single passenger and 
he had been last seen zigzagging across a plowed field as if afraid the 
train behind him was about to explode. He was apparently going to be 
as far as possible from the blast when it happened. 

A clue led to Kentucky. As a company adjuster plunged deeper 
into the hills, both they and the reputation of "the runaway passenger 
got worse. A fellow at the gas station in the valley nodded over the 
description. 

"Probably Joe Bent," he said. "Better let him alone." The agent 
asked why but the native would not say. 

The man in the lean-to up the slope was not as talkative as the 
one in the valley but he asked more questions and seemed to know of 
Joe's unsettling train ride. Joe had said when he came back that he 
should have stuck to mulebacL 

"Does he farm around here?" asked the adjuster. 

"Guess so, son, n the hillman said, dryly. He glanced up the path 
and down. "Might be better if you didn't go up there, boy. You might 
be all right, as you say, but he wouldn't know that until it was too 
late." He spat four yards. "Joe doesn't like company." He added almost 
as an after-thought: "Had to shoot a couple of fellows once." 

The agent looked up the path into the disquietude of the woods, 
too, and developed a distinct apathy over any shock Mr, Bent might 
have suffered in the railroad accident. He took the down path whistling 

feebly. 

The name of Bent, the moonshiner, was carried a long time on 
the D. T. & L books in case he ever bobbed up with wounds he might 
charge to the railroad, but he presumably thought that by diligence 
and his squirrel rifle he would last longer in the hills than by ever 
trusting a railroad again. 

Long before he bought the D. T. & L, Ford was critical of rail 
road rolling stock. The heavy locomotives and the cars they pulled 
were the reason to him for the high expense of keeping roadbeds in 

shape* 

He tried his hand with a light steel car. His secretary telephoned 
the railroad one morning to announce a new type of passenger car 

had been completed and that Mr. Ford wanted to take it out on the 

lint for a test run, Would the superintendent make arrangements for 
right of way? The superintendent suggested, on his part, that It might 



THE UTTLE TOY TRAIN 137 

be well for a motive power expert to look over the car before the run 
began. 

Ford's secretary curtly asked why. 

"Well check for width and height to make sure we'll clear 
bridges and the like/' the superintendent said. "The brakes ought to be 
tested by someone familiar with railroad needs." 

The secretary said stiffly ke did not think this would be at all 
necessary since Mr. Ford always knew what he was doing. However, 
there was an over-night change of heart. The head of motive power was 
instructed to look over the car. 

"Say, Ken," that gentleman called a short time later, "this new 
car has NO brakes," 

"Are you sure?" 

"Come over and see for yourself." 

Whoever was responsible had failed to provide the car with 
some means of stopping once it had started. The trial run was hastily 
cancelled, the oversight corrected, and on a later day the car rolled 
out for its experimental trip. Instructions were to secure right of way 
from Detroit to Springfield, Ohio, where the party would spend the 
night. 

The car was shorter than the ordinary passenger car. It had the 
visual center aisle between two rows of wicker chairs and operated a 
good deal like an automobile except that no steering was necessary. 
The driver sat in a forward corner. 

The coach bounded along nicely and the passengers were in a 
complimentary mood. Two or three hours out the younger Ford decided 
to try his hand at the tiller. On all roads the D. T. & I. crossed 
the New York Central, Wabash, Nickel Plate, Pennsylvania, Erie and 
Big Four a distance signal is set at varying distances from an inter 
section, a home signal closer to the crossing. 

Roads are equipped with the further safeguard of a derail also 
in varying forms in this case a rail sliced in two at an angle. When 
signals are against a train there is a break in the track; when all is clear 
a towerman closes it. The distance signal was against the test car 
approaching the main line of the Pennsylvania. They were traveling 
60 miles an hour but the young president of Ford Motor made no move 
to slacken and the division head across the aisle assumed he had not 
seen the signal. 



138 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"Did you miss the warning, Mr. Ford?" He leaned across the 
aisle. 

The junior Ford seemed absorbed in what he was doing. He 
made no answer and no move to apply any brakes. He apparently 
had ideas of his own of their power and the distance required to halt 
the car. The warning home signal and main line loomed! The derail 
was set! ! A pile-up seemed inescapable. 

"We're going off!" Chorley raised his voice and braced himself. 

Edsel had misjudged the strength of the brakes. Fie cut speed 
but the car hit the derail and swung off on a jarring run over rough 
ground. An embankment would have been fatal but it was luckily 
flat at the point where the car left the tracks. It was a close call. The 
dynasty could easily have been snuffed out. Several passengers were 
pitched into the aisle but there were nothing worse than minor bruises 
and raised temperatures. The rail turned up and sheared the motors 
off the underside of the car. 

Young Ford was not a man to dodge responsibility. He took the 
blame without hesitation when his father managed to get off his knees 
and lurch up forward to ask what had happened. Fie had been twice 
advised to slow down, Edsel said, but thought that in the intervening 
5000 feet of track he had plenty of time to pull down if the home 
signal did not change in time to let him shoot through. 

A freight locomotive on a passing track was cut off and got the 
experimental car back on the track but it would not operate under its 
own power and was to wed to Springfield. 

It had been impossible to hide the debut of the Ford experiment 
in railroading, if there ever was any desire, and the group had been 
advised of a welcoming party waiting to salute his new coach, but the 
accident dampened any fancy the senior Ford had for official hand 
shaking. He did not relish a triumphal arrival behind a freight loco 
motive. Automobiles, ordered to meet" the party at a belt line outside 
Springfield, conveyed the passengers from there to a hotel without 
drumbeat or bunting* 

Ford would ride tenders on top of the coal in search o flaws 
and sometimes just for the sheer fun of it. He would have his chauffeur 
drive south some 30 miles and there flag a train. Ford would get aboard 
arid the driver would continue oa down the highway to some appointed 
place to pick him up later* 



THE LITTLE TOY TRAIN 139 

He usually chose the least populated areas for these joy rides and 
he seemed to have a stirring time perched on the rocking coal. Occa 
sionally he would sit there playing a harmonica, listening closely as if 
trying to catch the rhythm of the car wheels and match it. Occasionally 
he'd crawl over the coal and into the cab, and you could tell when he 
took the throttle the train flew as though off non-stop for the Aleu 
tians. 

He made a delightful acquaintance on one excursion. Strains of 
a fiddle drew him to a crossing-tender's shack. The occupant, at ease 
on an empty soapbox, did not recognize his visitor and went on with 
Money Mus^. 

"I like that," Ford complimented. "Y'mind?" He reached for the 
violin and played a little tune himself. 

"That's good, too," the owner patronized, and said it would be 
better, of course, except the fiddle was not too good. 

"It isn't, is it?" Ford agreed. "Too bad." 

Well, it was the best a working man could do. After all, the 
man in the shack said, violins cost money. Ford showed up with a 
package the next week, said he had a fiddle he wanted his friend 
to try. 

They sat down on the same box. The difference in music was 
quite noticeable. The crossing-tender hardly recognized what his bow 
brought forth. 

"Say, that's good!" he said at the conclusion, scrutinizing the 
instrument. "Where did you get it?" 

Ford said he just picked it up. It should have been good. It was 
an Arnati which had cost him $35,000. He left it with the railroad hand 
for a month and when he went to get it back he was sorry he had to 
turn down a good offer. The crossing-tender said he thought he could 
get a loan of $75 on his insurance policy if Ford would sell. 

In some way he found that merchants in an Ohio town were 
charging his workers one price and had another set of prices for other 
customers. The practice angered him. 

"I want that situation cleaned up right away," he ordered, and a 
company executive reached for a telephone. 

The business people of the Ohio town were thunderstruck one 
morning to see excavators on a site immediately in their midst and a 
sign on the property announcing that this was going to be the future 



140 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

home for a new large branch of a well-known chain. Ford had found a 
way of coping with gougers. 

Ford climbed a ladder to a roof of the plant one morning when 
he saw a workman asleep on it. 

"Why/' he frowned when he had shaken the slumberer awake, 
"are you taking your sleep on our time?" In speaking of the company 
it was never "I" or "mine" but "we" and "our." 

The worker said it was true he was napping on company prop 
erty but on his own time. "I quit twenty minutes ago," he protested. 
He had resigned right up there on the roof. He was sick of washing 
windows. He had been doing that for two years without a raise in pay 
and since he was 20 he thought life was slipping away from him. 
Besides, he didn't like window-cleaning no matter what it paid took 
it only because he needed work. 

"What do you think you'd like to do?" Ford had taken a seat 
on the roof beside him. 

As long as he could remember, he said, he had wanted to be a 
railroad engineer. Ford looked him up and down appraisingly and had 
one of his honored hunches. Individuals interested him more than man 
in the mass. 

"Come over to the office with me." He led the way down the 
ladder and across the yard. 

This was a rabbit he'd get out of Harry Bennett's sleeve. When 
the chief of his service department set traps for a miracle he usually 
came in with one on the ifender like a buck in season. He had produced 
one only the previous day when Ford called Bennett's attention to a 
stretch o ballast that was brown. 

"Know what that is?" he asked. 

Bennett would not have known what it wa$ if the color had been 
heliotrope or dusty pink. He had no interest in railroads, industrial 
processes and didn't even like to drive an automobile. Once he became 
so confused by horn-blowers at a five-way intersection that he aban 
doned his car in the middle of the road. 

"There it is," he said to the cop on the corner, "you figure it 
out/* and walked away, 

No, Mr. Ford, he didn't know what the brown was, he said, 

"Iron," Ford pronounced it, * 4 and it shouldn't be there/* 

Two hours later it wa$n*t Bennett didn't know what brown 



THE LITTLE TOY TRAIN 141 

ballast meant but he knew an order. In no time trucks were beside the 
rails and the slag was hauled of? to be dumped by the Rouge furnaces 
with a message from Bennett that Mr, Ford did not like to see iron 
wasted on slag. 

Ford telephoned Bennett about the boy on the roof. 

"He wants to be a locomotive engineer." He pointed his finger at 
the speechless fledgling, now awake to the fact that something was hap 
pening to him that couldn't. "See what you can do, Harry." 

"Come on, Kid." Bennett walked out. The young worker stum 
bled after. 

Ford heard a hail from a yard locomotive a month later. "Hi-yah, 
Mr. Ford," a voice saluted and a hand waved. 

The window-washer had not risen full distance to the throttle 
but he was wide awake this time and pitching coal The moral, one of 
Ford's less serious aides said at the time, was that a good way to get 
ahead was to fall asleep on a roof and let Ford catch you at it. 

Whether the motormaker was extraordinarily proficient as a rail 
road operator because of some sixth sense, as some said, or whether he 
made a white elephant fly and pay by the business which naturally 
flowed to the road from his ownership, I do not pretend to know. He 
not only got profit because he owned the road but also as the originator 
o volume. If he couldn't get equity from one connecting line he 
diverted business to another. In return for his traffic other roads cut in 
the D. T. & I. on their unrouted business in the opposite direction. 

He quit railroading because he never was able to do with the 
road what he hoped. His first reason for buying it was to insure himself 
an unbroken flow of coal, and he didn't get it. 

"They told me I had to own mines to get coal, so I bought mines," 
he said when he reached the end of the rope. "Then they told me that 
to haul it I really needed a railroad of my own, so I bought a railroad. 
Then I bought 2,000 cars to haul the coal in, and I still don't seern 
nearer the right answer than I was before." 

He stood at the window mooning and rubbing his jaw with 
both hands. 

"Sell the thing!" he said. 

The Grand Monarch had been giving orders too long to take 
them. It wasn't the only reason. Edsel, in a later federal hearing, was 
to testify that the road in 1928 was taking up too much company time 



i 4 2 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

that could be better spent. Aviation was coming into the picture and 
Ford bought a small establishment. A minority stock interest sput 
tered because Ford didn't pay dividends on the D. T. & I. but diverted 
profit to profit-sharing schemes. 

Always, too, there were rules that bothered him. He seemed to be 
constantly drawing a $1,000 fine for running a train without a caboose. 
Operating a railroad was not like running his plant which he could open 
and shut as he wished. He could raise wages, cut prices, tear apart, stick 
together, with no one to say he couldn't. With the railroad he couldn't. 
The government had too much to say to suit him. 

Three roads were interested when the D. T. & I. went on the 
block. The Pennsylvania and the Baltimore & Ohio were two to whom 
the property looked good. The Michigan Central wanted a piece. Sale 
terms were developed after a year's negotiations with Pennroad. Details 
were put up to Ford in a long report. He dropped in on his secretary, 
Liebold, and asked him if he had read the terms. No ? Well, get a copy 
and see what he thought of them. 

"You've got a reputation as a smart man but you won't have it 
if you sign," the secretary reported after his study. 

The proposal called for payment of $10,000,000 in cash and 
balance of $26,000,000 in 20 years. The clause to which major exception 
was taken gave the Pennsylvania first option on 70 per cent of total ton 
nage of the Rouge plant for 40 years. Also, was there any good reason 
Pennroad should not pay all cash ? 

"I won't sign it," Ford promised, 

Edsel, sailing for Europe, dumped his bonds on the secretary's 
desk. The senior Ford did likewise, "Now you go out and sell it/* the 
senior Ford said to the secretary. 

Under the rewritten terms Pennroad paid $36,000,000 in cash and 
the option on Rouge freight was struck out. Ford was leaving the 
laboratory a month later as Liebold was arriving. They met in the lobby. 

"How's the railroad coming?" Ford stopped to ask* It was the first 
time he had mentioned it since refusing to go through with the original 
deal 

"We closed today and the cash is in the bank/* he was told. 

In lieu of an actual cash transfer, the Ford company and Attcr- 
bury interests exchanged lists of depositaries, Pennroad banked with a 
dozen or so; Ford had accounts in some fifteen scattered banks. The two 



THE UTTLE TOY TRAIN 143 

ran down their lists and checked nine institutions in which both had 
accounts. 

The plan called for the holding company, on the closing date, 
merely to transfer from its account to Ford's in those banks a total of 
$36,000,000. An officer of each receiving bank was then to wire a Detroit 
bank the amount of the deposit. 

Liebold, the secretary, gathered up a sheaf of telegrams just before 
closing time. They were from the named banks and announced fresh 
deposits to Ford account of the entire sales price of the D. T. & I. Ford 
would miss pulling the throttle and feeling the surge of old No. 424 
as if it was going to take the whole state of Ohio in three good broad 
jumps. He would miss the crossing-tender who played bouncy jigs on 
the Amati. He was out of railroading. 



Just when the nimbus seemed 
a perfect fit and what he 
should he wearing, hed shake 
his head and it would slide 
rakishly down over one ear. 



CHAPTER XI 

HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL 

FOR HIS HALO 



THE WORLD had no prior experience with a lord so talka 
tive. No Astor or Morgan sat down with reporters for a 
chummy talk or challenged them to a foot-race or treated 
them to carrots from a hillock he tilled himself. Ford 
held a thousand midgets on his lap unabashed and even called in the 
photographers himself. Publicity was his pudding. 

Many hundreds of trains going and coming in his twenty-track 
mind got through on schedule or ahead of time; some ran red lights, 
through open switches, down embankments, but the percentage of 
loss was light in relation to the traffic. 

Ford won stature by some headlines because he was unorthodox 
and often ahead of the band, because he took ideas and walloped them 
an awesome country mile and because no. one was ever sure he would 
not hit another home run into the same far tier of seats. 

He lost size by other headlines because he often talked unguard 
edly and spectacularly for sheer talk's sake, purposely aiming to startle 
no matter how; because some hunches did not jell; because he did not 
think through all his enterprises, or thought them through but added 
wrong and got a bad answer, and because everything he said was 
magnified by men mesmerized by his possessions and his record as 
author of hit shows. 

Rivals tried until red in the face to equal him in corraling news 

144 



HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR HIS HALO 145 

space. He made pygmies of them and towered over them. He was 
without a peer in maintaining his name in lights. In a measure it was 
because he had a sixth sense for right timing, a knowledge of what 
made news, and okayed his own copy. 

He could be indifferent to veracity and consistency. It was less 
important that a thing be true than that it be exciting, stunning. To 
test its effect on a man to whom he was talking, Ford was quite capable 
o saying something he did not mean or say he was going to do a thing 
he did not intend to do. It could be pure blarney, but if the effect satis 
fied him he let the statement stand. A good effect on one guinea pig 
was a sign it might dazzle a much larger audience. 

He had a bandaged ankle one fall. He had been playing football, 
he said, with the children. Of course he had not been playing football 
with the children but the report of an injury on the gridiron at seventy- 
one was more dramatic than the truth that he had a common, 
blister. 

He wore an old shoe one birthday that was not a mate of the 
other. Had he hurt his foot? Not at all, he said. Every birthday he put 
on an old shoe to remind him that he once had beea poor and that there 
was no insurance he would not be poor again unless he watched his 
step. Nonsense! He had put on a wrong shoe in the dark but by a little 
imagination he made a piece of it that the press would print. 

He was going to make cars of plastic and there was great to-do 
but he only made one, being photographed slamming it with an axe to 
show how tough it was. He had decided to build 400 houses for work 
men by pouring concrete into molds, but he did not pour any, He 
may have had it in mind to do so when he mentioned it but no plan 
not under way was a binding contract. Moreover, he reserved the right 
to throw the helm over as he pleased and beat off on a new course. 

His refusal to stay put agitated one newspaper exceedingly. He 
gave out an interview in support of municipal ownership of Detroit's 
traction system. He went sled length but the paper was suspicious. The 
editor called in his reporter, "Go out and get Ford to put his signature 
on this thing," he said, quite aware Mr. Ford might say one thing one 
day and back away the next. "I don't want him walking out on 
this.*' 

The reporter got nowhere in obtaining the signature. A second 
tried and cooled his heels several days. The newspaper even recalled its 



146 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Washington correspondent and told him to see what he could do. Ford 
never signed. He did not repudiate the interview but up to the voting 
It was thought he might. 

He was to under similar circumstances. This time he wanted 
to be against municipal operation of the surface lines, he told his 
editor. 

"You can't do it," his editor said. "A little while back you ap 
plauded the Idea." 

"When? Where?" Ford demanded to know. 

Date and place were furnished. 

*Tm coming out against it anyway/' he said, petulantly. 

He was warned the public would not have forgotten. So he had 
one of his top executives damn the proposed acquisition of the surface 
lines as too costly. It could not have happened if Mr. Ford had not 
given the interview the nod. 

Ford fretted under the surveillance of his own police. A press 
photographer tried to snap the motormaker on a new bicycle and almost 
had the camera snatched from his hands. 

"None of that now," he was warned by plant police. "No pic 
tures!" 

The incident did not escape Ford, He sidled over to the camera 
man and whispered, "I'll slip away from these fellows and meet you at 
the back gate." 

The photographer hid himself in bushes near the exit and Ford 
kept his word. He showed up alone and rode in circles while the pic 
tures were taken. On the other hand when the pictures were published 
Ford called his police chief on the carpet. 

"Can't I even be protected from the photographers when I want 
to be?" he reprimanded, acting out the part of a man who paid for pro 
tection and expected to get it or know why. 

It got bruited about that Ford put on a red tie when he was 
fighting mad. He told a newsman so. I didn't believe it but he said he 
did when I asked. I still don't believe it. 

"That's right," he said. "Makes me feel spunky. I put it on to 
match my temper." 

When Ford was mad he did not think in terms of haberdashery. 
He did not go from the plant to the house to change his tie for battle. 
He fought as he was, any weight, any adversary, in silk, poplin or no 



HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR HIS HALO 147 

tie at all if anyone caught him that way. His statement did not square, 
either, with the fact that on a very tranquil day he would appear in a 
red tie. What he said about red ties simply set people to talking .and 
that was what he wanted. Publicity was the overriding reason for so 
many of his eccentric statements and actions that after a time you got 
to know that often what seemed spontaneous had been probably well 
thought out. 

One day when he was in excellent humor and wore a red tie I 
asked what he was doing in it feeling as good as he was. He threw him 
self into a role of an angry man before my eyes. His eyes snapped, he 
clenched a fist he slammed out, saying he had a few words to say to 
a fellow, and leaving the impression it was going to be pretty rough on 
the other man. 

I followed him at a distance where he would not see me unless 
he turned around. He seemed to be pleased with himself. Out the 
door leading to the laboratory he wheeled right and retraced his steps, 
walked into the corridor and back, smiling, into his own office, giving 
the tie a jaunty pull as he went in. He apparently was trying to make 
good the myth of the red tie for my benefit. 

His statement that the public could have any color in a Ford so 
long as it was black went so well he decided to have a fling at an 
other color. When John S. Coppin, Detroit artist, was commissioned 
to do a portrait of Ford for a collection of scientists, business leaders and 
inventors being formed by Thomas J. Watson, of International Busi 
ness Machines, the automobile tycoon told Coppin he couldn't see why 
he should pose after his last experience fifteen years before. He said 
Carl C. E. Lindin, New York artist, had worked on him then. 

"Weeks it took!" Ford maddened at the memory* It might have 
been three or four days but as the irritated motormaker recalled the 
event it was weeks. "One afternoon he said to me, 'I guess that's all for 
today,' and said he'd make an appointment for another sitting. I said 
Til make the next appointment/ " Ford looked at Coppin fiercely. "I 
never went back!" 

He wanted to know why the painter could not get all he needed 
from photographs. Coppin said the results would be flat and generally 
unsatisfactory. Edsel put in a word. "No, I won't pose," said Ford, 
impervious, "111 sit and talk and you can sketch or get some ideas. 
How's that?" 



148 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

It had to do. 

"There's another thing, Mr. Ford," the artist ventured. Ford wore 
a blue tie with white stripes. "To warm it up, if you don't mind, Frn 
going to put a red tie on you in the portrait." 

"Why?" 

"Well, you're wearing a cold colored suit or it will look cold on 
canvas." 

Ford nodded. 

"Ever wear a red tie?" the artist asked. 

"Yep," said Ford, giving his old line a twist. "Put any color of 
tie on me as long as it's red." 

Newspapermen assigned to him daily got to regard themselves 
as members of the kitchen cabinet non-voting B members, it is true, 
' but those who held cards found it easier to record the feats and let the 
follies alone. The home-town reporter rationalized his semi-surrender. 
He balanced the hypothetical value of a one-day sensation which might 
improve his status in the trade for a few hours against the tangible 
profit of being able to share in the solid run of news material Ford was 
forever creating, and he usually voted to take the long-term profit, 
whatever Greeley or Dana might have done. 

Converted Navy blimps, at $19,000 a month rental, now cruise 
the sky spelling out in lights the superiorities of the Ford car. The 
company spent more than $800,000 for radio time last year on one net 
work. In an earlier day Henry Ford just sat there in his office and blew 
off, and his name spread economically to every point of the compass. 
Books, magazines, newspapers were his dirigible and radio, and usually 
he had them free; and through all the powwows of analysts as to what 
kind of a man he was, the assembly lines moved without pause and 
thousands ate regularly, built homes, educated their young. 

Ford would ramble along pleasantly about something he or the 
two of you were interested in. Sometimes he would answer your ques 
tions; sometimes he would say, *1 don't want to talk about that right 
now," and launch into some subject he did want to talk about. Some 
days he was lucid and highly quotable, others, disjointed and obscure. 
He'd be tranquil; he'd be sulphurous. 

When he became bored with the conversation, as he did with 
visitors, distinguished or undistinguished, he slouched lower. When 
his head on the back of his chair and his feet on a desk in front o 



HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR HIS HALO 149 

him reached virtually the same level, this was the nadir of boredom, 
and you knew you were about to lose him. He'd be on his feet in a 
jiffy and practically run out of the room taking no sociable leave just 
getting out. 

He was always alerted to the machines beyond the door, though. 

A mechanic appeared in oily overalls; Ford turned his head and 
said, "Yes Joe?" 

"That machine is going, Mr. Ford." Some called him "Henry" 
but they were not many. 

"I'll be right there." He rose and broke up the interview. "Sorry 
Fve got to go." He hurried after the workman. 

At times he was not the Presence at all, with plants girdling the 
planet and pockets full of millions, but a neighbor on whom you were 
paying a pleasant call one friend talking casually and unguardedly to 
another with no thought that a palpitant populace might be at the 
keyhole. He never said such talks were not for publication but in 
stinctively one sensed when the conversation went off the record and 
the jury was out of the room. Then a new question was asked, formal 
ism returned and you knew he was talking again for world consump 
tion. 

He had many moments of extravagant speaking. An Associated 
Press writer was fanning with him when conversation swung to the 
Bible. 

"There are only two things in the Book worth a damn," Ford 
remarked. 

It was a flat generalization of the type mankind is given to. He 
was asked what passages he had in mind. One was from Paul's declara 
tion of faith to the Romans: 

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves but 
rather give place unto wrath, for it is 
written. Vengeance is mine; I will repay, 
saith the Lord. 

The other was from the eleventh chapter of Hebrews: 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped 
for, the evidence of things not seen. 



150 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

At this point the correspondent noted with some surprise what 
looked an abnormality on Ford's left hand. He dropped Biblical texts 
without asking the reason for the preference and looked closer. Four 
fingernails were trimmed but the nail of the little finger extended a 
half Inch beyond the tip. 

"Wondering about the nail?" Ford realized his visitor's attention 
was on something besides the Bible. "I've been letting it grow to 
show Eleanor [his daughter-in-law] how silly women look with nails 
like that." He glanced, slightly dubious, at his own experiment. "I 
guess I'll spray it with paint after a while," he observed, chuckling at the 
fancy. 

In writing of the day, the reporter had an eye on the clerical 
rumpus which might result i Ford was quoted in endorsement of only 
two things in the Bible, so the texts were offered inoffensively as Ford's 
"favorite" passages. The fingernail went unchronicled and if there was 
later merriment over the promised duco job, it was enjoyed privately 
around one dinner table and not around the world. 

Occasionally when Ford was in an outlandish mood and saying 
things which did not square with known fact, a listener at one side of 
the room would hunch forward and slip into the conversation, "What 
Mr. Ford means is " William J. Cameron, Ford editor, would say and 
would proceed from there to file down edges and touch up the cadence 
with an adroit carpentry. 

Another sub-editor had a different approach. When Ford was 
lost in an undertow and no one except him was quite sure what he was 
driving at, Fred L. Black would remark: "You see, Mr. Ford often 
speaks in parables," and he would point to the particular parable at bat 
at the moment, distilling what you had been hearing to what he said 
was the essence. 

These analyses must have been competent for I remember few if 
any times when Ford repudiated them. He would nod pleasantly as if 
he was listening to his own thought repeated merely in dressier words. 
When the fog settled deep, one somehow had a notion that what he 
was thinking was perfectly plain to him but he was without the neces 
sary fund of words to tell others. 

Talking through an interpreter to a visitor whose language he 
did not speak and whose English he might not recognize, he had a 
standard cure-all for the problems of foreign states in which he had no 



HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR HIS HALO 151 

direct interest but whose envoys found relief in telling him what little 
Ruritania was up against. When he was clearly over his head and had 
not even begun to get straight in his mind what an earnest gesticulat 
ing caller had said, he fell back on the stock recipe. 

"Well, there is only one cure for that/' he would remark, cheer 
fully, "and that is Hard Work." 

It was on this note the audience usually broke up. 

The Ku Klux Klan entered the mayoralty election in Detroit in 
1925 by backing Charles E. Bowles, a political nobody and a Protestant, 
against John W. Smith, the incumbent, and a Catholic. 

Mr. Smith, a Bull Moose Progressive, who reveled in most of the 
pleasant laxities of mankind, was a connoisseur of Rhine wine, Bo- 
kharas, good music and troubadours. He either owned a piece of a 
Canadian race-track or was said to have lost enough in wagering to 
have bought the controlling stock. He came near to acquiring a wein- 
stube in Heidelberg in a sentimental moment, and periodically turned 
over his home to members of a symphony orchestra and the press for 
what presumably would be known in today's argot as a jam session. 

Around a guitarist introduced as the world's last surviving 
troubadour, political writers and others used to gather and sing Abdul 
Abulbul Amir, the only familiar piece the troubadour knew in a long 
repertoire of fine Hungarian folksongs. The parties were quite mem 
orable, with perhaps Traviata in the study, the violin section at Nevin 
or Liszt or Victor Herbert in the living room, the surrounded trouba 
dour strumming in an upstairs bedroom, Budweiser in the basement 
and a crap game on a plaid blanket of the tribe of Bruce on the kitchen 
floor. The host had picked up the plaid in Scotland and thought it was 
lucky for him. 

Against these allurements, Mr. Bowles pitted unknown but con 
siderable virtues custard bowls for women voters and a chaste Protes 
tantism and hooded tribesmen burned crosses in the outer purlieus 
of the city. Mr. Bowles disowned the demonstrators, but intolerance 
had a vivid inning. 

As the campaign took on vitriolic touches Smith said "Get me 
Henry Ford's endorsement if you can" and was off to bet a race at 
Devonshire. Smith had been an early circulation manager of the Dear 
born Independent but his political enemies told Ford that Smith had 
quietly joined in criticism of Edsel Ford for his exemption from mili- 



152 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

tary service In World War I. When the senior Ford was in a barber 
shop one day, a subscription-taker for the Independent came in. The 
next day he announced he was thoroughly dissatisfied with the sales 
talk of the agent, and the entire Smith organization was out. 

His steering committee thought a Ford endorsement might do 
its candidate more harm than good since many Ford employees dis 
agreed with the national estimate of their boss and often voted ob 
stinately against what he was for, but I was told several days later that 
Ford would stand up and be counted for Smith if I would see him. 

He kept his word. He put Smith midway between Bismarck and 
Disraeli. 

"That does it, doesn't it?" he observed. Cameron and Sir Perci- 
val Perry, president of Ford of England, were present and merely lis 
tened. Unfortunately I ran the wrong way of the field at this point. As 
he got up to go I asked how he sized up the Klan movement. This 
proved not at all the right thing to have said. When a fly was cast in 
these waters no one could tell what would rise to it. Ford reseated him 
self and said he was glad to kill two birds with one stone. 

"I think the Klan, the Knights of Columbus and Masons can be 
traced back to Wall Street," he asserted. "Yes, sir!" He shook his head 
gravely. "Now there you have it," he exclaimed and looked around as if 
for a seconding nod. He did not get it. The room was quite still. 

"No child ever went to church and came out the worse for it/' 
he said. "These organizations will get us into war if we donV watch 

out." 

He seemed to tire of the theme, and walked out, leaving those be 
hind slightly bemused. 

"How about lunch?" someone asked. The Englishman said that 
would be nice, indeed. We crossed the laboratory to the pine-paneled 
restaurant. 

"How about forgetting that last statement?" a nervous Ford 
representative asked. 

The Briton said it was quite extraordinary. I certainly did not 
want any piece of the bomb, which was so far just a dud in the family. 
It would ruin the endorsement. I was interested exclusively in touting 
the statesmanship of Mr. Smith. Moreover, Ford and my publisher 
were Masons. Smith was one of the Knights. 

Standard practice at the time was to submit for check before 



HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR HIS HALO 153 

publication articles in which Ford was directly quoted, so after lunch 
the Smith endorsement was written on a company typewriter and men 
tion was omitted o the Klan, the Knights and the Masons being mere 
speaking tubes o Wall Street. 

In midafternoon Ford was back and it was read to him. He 
nodded approvingly but appeared not wholly satisfied. 

"Isn't there any more?" he asked. 

The secretary said there was not. 

"You forgot to say," Ford shook an admonishing finger, "that 
the Klan, the Knights of Columbus and the Masons can be traced to 
Wall Street." He took the pages from the editor and passed them to me. 

"What Mr. Ford really means," said the editor, after the door 
closed behind his liege lord, "Is something he expressed in other words 
to me a few days ago." 

"Well, what did he mean?" I asked, a little crabbedly. "You 
write it if he has left something out that should be in or if he mis 
stated something he has in mind." 

The spokesman turned to his typewriter and batted out in three 
paragraphs an amended Ford answer to the question of what he 
thought of the Klan movement. It came out this way: 

"There is an epidemic of organizations in America engaged in 
church-baiting or interfering in devious ways with the peaceful pro 
gressive life of the race. I am NOT mentioning the Klan or the Masons 
or the Knights of Columbus but I am including them all. 

"A majority of them are breeding spots that may involve us in 
another war. The leaders of them and Wall Street get the profit. I am 
referring to organizations which directly or indirectly seek to criticize 
the church. No child ever went to church and came out the worse for 
it. People who fight against religion haven't any religion to fight about. 

"We will be saddled with them until intelligence prevails and 
the public cannot be herded like sheep. Many of these organizations, I 
repeat, are agents of Wall Street and are composed of the harebrained 
who only lose the fees they pay in." 

Ford returned in ten minutes and the ghosted statement was 
read to him in its revamped form. 

"Now that's just right." He gleefully slapped his leg with his 
hand and was out the door again. 

The Klan, Knights and Masons were still in it but were no 



154 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

longer tied to Wall Street with a fast knot. The ghost succeeded in in 
cluding and excluding them by a little dexterous double talk. I remem 
ber the New York Times editorial when the statement reached it, "The 
sweet influence of Dearborn will continue to reign upon the peaceful 
progressive life of the Nordic race." It said Ford talked too rarely and 
that "the words of the wise were as goads." 

As proof of Ford's variability, Mr. Bowles beat off opposition 
when he ran again for mayor two years later and when he was recalled, 
Ford's lawyer joined counsel for the anti-recall forces. 

On the basis of what was laid to him there were those who 
thought Ford was misquoted but it only seemed he must have been. He 
was safer in the hands of reporters than stenographers. What he ac 
tually said was often stranger, in full context, than what, in skeleton, 
he was credited with saying. Many caught him in inspired moments 
when he seemed to possess an extra gadget in his head which others 
lacked and which turned him into a superior oracle. Many heard him 
say things which made them distrust their ears. 

Of those who came and went none was more diligent in the 
vineyard than a clergyman who doubled as a Ford interviewer for a 
news syndicate. He was a staunch laborer and slaved hard to make an 
often reluctant Ford see life as he saw it. The motormaker's editorial 
janizaries had to read him closely because of the license he took. 

The clergyman had a happy device. He would deliver 200 or 300- 
word sermonettes to Mr. Ford in the form of questions, full of meta 
physics, polysyllables and poetical allusions, and ask if Ford agreed. If 
Ford said no, he was worked over. If he said "I guess you're right 
there," the words were taken out of the clergyman's mouth and put 
into Mr. Ford's as a statement coming from him when they appeared 
in type. It was a simple trick but not new. 

Discussion centered one morning on the company's coal proper 
ties. The pastor thought company houses a devil's device and wanted 
Ford to say so. 

"What's wrong with them?" Ford interrupted sharply. 

"The monotony of the architecture, the denial of man's right to 
express his individuality " 

"People live in apartments all alike and are happy in them, 
aren't they?" he argued. "I don't see anything wrong with our com 
pany houses." 



HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR HIS HALO 155 

"But" 

"Rent is reasonable, they have every improvement and we keep 
them in good shape," Ford ran right on. "Moreover, the families take 
pride in them and keep them clean," 

He wandered out of the room without waiting for an answer. 
The clergyman was distressed. He said to the official spokesman, "He 
won't say what I want him to say." 

"He often won't," the spokesman said laconically. 

The pastor bested Ford in the end. Instead of reporting the 
negative, he got the answer he wanted into the article by omitting it 
and giving the impression Ford had said yes when he had said no. The 
article ended, "You don't believe then in the company house, do you, 
Mr. Ford." He put a period at that point as if merely confirming a 
statement that had come from Ford originally. The pastor got Ford 
against company houses, willy-nilly. 

The head of Ford Motor complained to me of two stories I 
wrote of him in thirteen years and asked suppression of only one, and 
that an item of small account. He said he did not like a feature article 
I had done on an old violinist who had visited him. I ran into Ford the 
morning it appeared. 

"Didn't like that story this morning," he said and moved on 
without explanation. 

At least it was a refutation of a rumor that he never bothered 
to read the papers. The story in question did not seem to be the sort to 
which he would pay any attention. He never said why he objected to 
it. He asked me not to publish the fact that a violin stolen from him as 
a boy had been returned years later by a neighbor boy who had taken it. 

About half an hour after the criticism of the story of the violinist 
I felt a hand at my elbow. 

"Forget what I said about that story," he apologized. "You write 
them the way you see them." 

When Allan Benson, magazine writer and Ford biographer, dis 
agreed with him about the Jewish campaign, Ford offered him some 
bound volumes of the Dearborn Independent to read but Benson said 
he knew what was in them and still was critical of the attack. 

"Read them again," Ford said, petulantly, "and then if you don't 
agree with me don't ever come to see me any more." 

Benson continued talking as if the conditional sentence had not 



156 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

been passed, and a few minutes later Ford got up from his chair and 
put a penitent hand on Benson's shoulder. 

"Guess Fm out of sorts this morning," He was all excuses. "You 
come to see me any time you want." 

A reporter was talking to a bank official of odds and ends and 
the latter happened to mention a new game played at his room the 
previous night. Among the guests were Mr. and Mrs. Edsel Ford and 
the game was called "Murder." It was one of those short-lived parlor 
diversions and he described the way it was played and the fun the 
party had. 

"Who were killed off?'* The newsman had in mind a feature 
supplement his paper was publishing. It contained all sorts of succulent 
tidbits about sea serpents, maharajahs, flights to the moon, and how 
far everything would reach if put end to end. The banker mentioned 
some nice people who had been histrionically done in among them his 
own wife and Ford's daughter-in-law and how it was accomplished. 
The reporter pieced together a splash page on murder in the drawing 
room. 

The promotion department of the newspaper unhappily ran a 
three-column teaser ad to boost Sunday sales and mentioned as a forth 
coming salty attraction a story on the "murder 5 * of Mrs. Edsel Ford 
without explanation that the homicide was all in fun and between 
good friends. 

Several hours later Dearborn telephoned. What was this prom 
ised story of homicide? 

"A parlor game they've been playing on Long Island," he was 
told. "It was tried out at Grosse Pointe the other night and went very 
well" 

There was a large hieroglyphic grunt at the other end. 

"No chance to kill It, I suppose," he ventured. 

"Went to press last night," he was told. 

"Of course. Well, much obliged," the weary voice at Dearborn 
said. "People are on my neck out here." 

The advertising manager of the newspaper involved said in an 
equally tired tone Monday morning: "Ford advertising is off the 
schedule." For the intrusion on Ford privacy the paper did ten-day 
penance before going back on the list of those sharing its lineage. 

Talks with other members of the high command in indusfv 



HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR HIS HALO 157 

might be couched in sedate language, dried to the last comma and cer 
tainly in line with a holy thing known as policy. Mr. Ford, of Green 
field township, never had to worry about such trifles. HE was policy. 
He had a roundtable where miscellaneous matters were discussed and 
decisions made, but if the vote was eight to one and he was the one, 
the single vote prevailed. Whether what he said was good or bad it was 
right from the barn and you were privileged to use it if you could 
escape the clutches of the man who said, "What Mr. Ford really means 
is ," and his confederate who said "Mr. Ford often speaks in parables." 

Since the senior Ford was top source no one had to write "on 
good authority it was learned" when he handed out news. Often he 
tried to make out that something sublime was crazy, or the other way 
around. He said in 1919 that history was the bunk, but other gentlemen 
of substance had expressed the same thought before he did and created 
no such furore; "capital punishment is being promoted by international 
financiers" in 1927; "the average daily wage in 1950 will be $27," at 
about the same time; "liquor is as dead as slavery" in 1928, and he 
erroneously predicted there would be no World War II because Amer 
ica had two million veterans of World War I who would not let it 
happen. But what he said was IT and called for no qualification. 

His more discreet competitors were at a disadvantage against 
such independence. The president of a competing company was asked 
to pose with two young boys who had won a company contest and had 
come from their respective towns to claim their trophies. A press pho 
tographer said he would like to get a little human interest into the pic 
ture and would the executive kindly stand between the boys with a hand 
on the shoulder of each. 

"Sorry, but not that," the president said, curtly. The children 
stood there not knowing what to make of his reluctance. "I'll just stand 
between them nothing else." 

He explained it later. He remembered, he said, a much dis 
cussed picture of the gangster Dillinger taken at an Indiana jail from 
which he subsequently escaped. Dillinger was posed arm in arm with 
the sheriff, and after the jail-break and the genial snap-shot was found, 
the public asked questions. 

"You can see for yourself the spot I'd be in," the cagy auto 
executive said, "if those two young boys turned out badly and a picture 
was found with my arms about them." He said he ^as sorry but that's 



158 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

the way It was. He seemed pleased by his talent for taking the long 
view* 

Public Enemy John Dillinger, slain by Federal Agents in Chi 
cago in 1934, wrote Ford a letter before he was silenced. Ford gave it 
to newsmen after the hoodlum met FBI men outside a Chicago theater 
and was through with killing and running away. It read: 

"I want to thank you for making an excellent car. If I am ever 
captured it will have to be someone in another Ford." 

Ford developed attachments for certain newsmen in Boston and 
Atlanta and was likely to talk with abandon in those two cities. He was 
free there from those subordinates who liked to use a sieve on what 
he said and pick out the clinkers. It was in Boston he said there would 
be no war that Europe did not dare launch its armies and four days 
later the Nazis moved into Silesia and across the Polish frontier. Within 
a week Chamberlain told Parliament a state of war existed between His 
Majesty's Government and Hitler's Germany. 

It seemed that nearly always when Ford went to Wayside Inn 
he got in touch with some favored one in a Boston newspaper office 
and said, "Come on out." It was in Boston in '26 he said the British gen 
eral strike was "put over" by the same interests responsible for wars. 
"The British people don't know it/' he assured the Boston Globe, "but 
the strike was jockeyed by the very same people the people back of the 
statesmen, who manufacture wars." He could name the people, he said, 
but the Globe would not print them if he did. 

It was in Atlanta in the spring of '44 that he said the war would 
be finished in two months. If he had been in Dearborn it is probable that 
all these bad guesses would have been waylaid long before they got 
through the plant gates. Maybe they wouldn't holding in leash his 
urge to startle and play prophet was never easy labor. 

He early developed the habit of playing favorites among writers. 
The confidant of the moment sat on his lap, as the saying is, for an 
uncertain time and then for no apparent reason would be cast out and 
replaced by another writer. There was no hard feeling about it. It was 
one of the occupational hazards of "covering" Ford. Many reporters 
enjoyed an inside track and his private telephone number for a spell and 
were then traded in for new models but were philosophical about it. 

They were not unlike a contractor who did a great many jobs 
for him. Then he bid on a new job and waited and didn't hear from 



HE WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR HIS HALO 159 

It and got a little nervous. He ran into Ford one day in the building, 
asked how his work was going. Were there any complaints? 

"No complaint. Why?" asked Ford. 

The contractor said he had asked because he had not received 
any yes or no on his last bid and wondered if it had been lost in the 
mail or i there was some fault with work he had done. They walked 
out to Ford's car. 

"Let's see how long have you been doing work for us?" Ford 
asked. 

The contractor said three years. 

"Well, three years is long enough, don't you think?" said Ford, 
very friendly, as he stepped on the starter and drove off. This simply 
was the end of relations the bid had not gone astray in the mail. 
Terminations happened that suddenly. 

Long ago he was particularly partial to one of the New York 
papers. His office was in the tractor plant at the time and one o his 
myrmidons was a gentleman who was anathema to the press but in 
whose duplicities Ford may well have had a hand. After all, his job was 
to make it hard, not easy, for people to see the head of the company. 

Reporters descended to question Ford on some subject that was 
hot at the moment. They idled all day without seeing him. The watch 
dog said he did not know where Mr. Ford was or when he would 
appear, and after a fruitless wait of hours the gentlemen of the press 
returned to town. 

"Mr. Ford still is not here and I don't know when he will be," 
they were assured by the same secretary when they reappeared next 
morning. 

A latecomer produced a lethal blow. He arrived with a copy of 
the favored newspaper and it contained an exclusive interview with 
Mr. Ford given the previous day on the very subject which had brought 
the local press trooping to his door. The reporters read it and went out 
to the front lawn to let off steam and some racy profanity. 

They were standing there when one noticed an extraordinary 
sight at the far end of the building. Ford was climbing out his office 
window, the sill of which was only a foot or so off the ground s and 
apparently was about to leave the premises. The reporters charged 
down on him and Ford straightened his coat and tie and was as bland 
as the man who had said he was not there. 



160 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"Good morning," he said as If the visit "was an entire and agree 
able surprise and he had not been called on the telephone only a few 
minutes before and told that a reportorial battalion was on his track 
and he'd better be off if he did not wish to be bothered. After all, he 
had used the cellar door of the White House in the Harding adminis 
tration to duck correspondents. Leaving by a window was no trick. 

"That son of a bitch of a man of yours said yesterday you weren't 
here and he said the same thing this morning," said a forthright re 
porter whose boiling point had been reached by the delaying tactics. 

"What did you call him?" Ford asked as though he could not 
believe he had heard correctly. 

All right, Ford had asked for it. "I said," remarked the reporter 
with rising choler and chucking in extra castigation, "that he was a no 
good son of a bitch." 

Mr. Ford smiled amiably, almost shyly, and made a motion with 
his hand as if he had heard something which confirmed a belief of 
his own. 

"You know, gentlemen," he said, "in an organization as big as 
ours we must have an occasional son of a bitch." He looked from one 
man to the next as one reasonable man discussing a problem with other 
reasonable men. "Naturally," he added, "we are so big we must have 
the very best in certain positions that we can get." 



He rebuilds the school where 
the lamb made a fool of Mary, 
and is offered the reputed 
mummy of Lincoln's assassin 
to prove history the hunk he 
said it was. 



CHAPTER XII 

NOSTALGIC JOURNEY 
INTO YESTERDAY 



WHEN AN ordinary man has an extraordinary dream 
he usually forgets it between home and the office; an 
idea swimming in the Ford sub-conscious was likely 
to find itself an heroic project next day. He would 
rub the lamp and call up a thousand genii, and soon they would be 
galloping the roads so that the effendi might have his wish. 

Instead of striking a gong for servingmen he even might turn 
expediter himself and set out alone on a mission, as he rode bareback 
as a boy to some distant farm to fix a clock. Most of them were no 
shoe-string undertakings and in them he had ian edge on contemporary 
dreamers. At the point where they might turn back after counting 
their cash and estimating the danger, he could plunge on indifferent 
to both. 

The expense of some enterprises was quite nominal but one 
stood him $25,000,000. To each he gave unflagging attention. That one 
cost more did not mean stinting of the one that cost less. Both were 
equally compelling in his mind and expense was not the determinant. 
As a result, when an undertaking was done he had a work as perfect as 
hands and money could make it. The manufacture of cars got to be 
routine he had to have diversion, and his diversion was on no pocket 
scale. 

161 



162 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

If some wanted original could not be found die replica was exact, 
even to the errors. When it was the remembered tone of sleighbells 
worn by his father's horses when he was a boy, and he wished to hear 
them again, no bells of other pitch would do and he personally hunted 
months for bells that rang as they did. 

"Got any ideas about a museum to house my Americana?" he 
asked an architect on an Atlantic crossing. 

"If it were mine" the architect knew he had to think fast and 
engagingly *Td do a reproduction of Independence Hall." 

On the tender into Cherbourg in .the morning Ford told the 
architect to think over that idea and so would he, and "come to see me 
when you get back." 

Architectural errors in the Philadelphia original were apparent 
in the measured drawings if they were not visible to the naked eye. 
Pilasters were off center an inch or so. Upstairs windows did not line 
up exactly over windows on the lower floor, Workmen of the period 
apparently had not worked to close current exactness. The architect 
was pleased with himself at catching the mistakes; being forewarned, 
he would be sure they did not creep into the reproduction. 

"No, I don't want you to do that," Ford said flatly. The errors 
were to be repeated in the facsimile. He wanted validity, not cor 
rectives. 

Historians might play fast and loose with events in the world's 
past, as he believed they did, so one hardly could tell what was what; 
he wanted no one taking architectural liberties, even remedial, with 
his carbon copy of the meeting house of the first Continental Congress, 
even if he shook up the interior to serve his needs. 

A book on John Wilkes Booth led Ford into fourteen states in a 
year's investigation of its claim that the actor-assassin of Lincoln did 
not perish shortly after the crime, as history said, but escaped and died 
of poison in Oklahoma thirty-eight years later. 

When he reconstructed the Sterling, Mass., schoolhouse to which 
the lamb followed Mary, he innocently found himself involved in a 
long-standing controversy over whether Mary and her ewe actually 
lived, and were put out of school for making the children laugh and 
play, or whether the stanzas were unalloyed fiction. 

I have before me a copy of a twenty-two-page report made at his 
instigation and as serious in tenor as though it dealt with a Nuremberg 



NOSTALGIC JOURNEY INTO YESTERDAY 163 

war criminal. It begins with the conclusion, "There WAS a Mary and 
there WAS a lamb," and then, going back to the earliest beginning, it 
works forward, weighs each pro and con as a court might charge a jury 
and comes at last to the researcher's confident judgment that Mary was 
a living child and her lamb no less genuine. 

Besides money, Ford had tenacity and long memory to call upon 
in this hunt for basic truth. He occasionally knotted the chain of his 
watch to remind him, he said, of something he might forget, but his 
household said a little suspiciously that he had "a good forgetter," and 
it meant "convenient" when it said "good." He could forget what he 
wanted to but some of his memory feats were a little staggering. 

The mysterious actions of a pair of men digging in a sand dune 
on a Michigan bay some years ago might have puzzled anyone who 
happened to see them. Their car stopped a few yards from the shore 
line and backed a little. One of them got a shovel out of the back of 
the car, and the two walked over to a half buried object which a half 
hour's digging revealed as a discarded stove. 

"No, not it," said the older man, disappointedly, and rested his 
spade. 

"Sure? It seems to be a Starlight." The younger man got to his 
knees and studied the nameplate. 

"Oh, it's a Starlight, all right, but a smaller model than the one 
we used to have," said the first man, resignedly. 

They got back into their car.* Henry Ford and his son Edsel were 
on a strange search. The treasure sought was a duplicate of the stove 
which warmed Ford's living room when he was boy. The make and 
model he had remembered for forty years. Eighteen months passed 
before the search ended. 

A small-town doctor answered a knock at his door one hot sum 
mer morning and found a stranger who looked like someone he should 
know, but he couldn't place him at the minute. 

"I'm told you have an old stove, an old Starlight stove/' the man 
on the step said. 

"Why yes, I have." 

"I wonder if I could see it?" 

The doctor preceded his caller into a back room. There it was 
a companion piece of the stove in the Ford homestead, and they made 
a deal for $25. The doctor could have had ten times the price. He even 



164 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

helped his smiling buyer to lug and shove and carry it out and lift it 
into the visitor's automobile. The purchaser seemed hardly able to 
resist kindling a fire in it this roasting day. The anxiety to take im 
mediate possession was beyond the town physician, but, after all, he 
was satisfied with the money he got and never did learn the identity 
of the palpitant buyer. 

It took almost as long to find a duplicate of the Brussels carpet 
which had covered the homestead floor and which Ford remembered 
by the repeated urns of roses in the pattern. That quest ended in New 
York State after the country had been combed from coast to coast 
and many a defeated automobile dealer had embarrassedly reported 
failure and lost his chance to win knighthood from the home 
office. 

Mrs. Ford quoted a line from a- schoolbook in 1913 and it set her 
husband off on a long and costly journey into lost country. She heard 
children laughing in the street in passing their home and she said to 
him, "Hear the children gayly shout," and he took it on from there and 
finished the couplet, "Half past four and school is out." 

"That's from McGuffey '$ reader, but which one, Henry?" she 
asked. He said he wasn't sure but thought it was the first. The do 
mestic banter launched him on his first serious collecting. The search 
for McGuffey readers led to the restoration of his birthplace ... to the 
purchase of the Wayside Inn of Longfellow ... to a passion for 
antiques ... to the acquisition of not only single pieces of colonial 
and post-colonial objets d'art but of whole shops ... to bulging 
warehouses and eventually to the building of Greenfield Village, 
where one could see how people lived and worked for 250 years, chang 
ing tools, methods, customs and environment. To some he seemed a 
man going furiously about with a basket trying to pick up pieces of a 
civilization he had done much to destroy. 

He bought with profligacy, at times, as if he had been a poor 
man just advised of a winning sweepstakes ticket, but he got of! to a 
modest enough start, and with no thought of the interminable road 
before him, in a search for the many editions of the school-readers of 
William Holmes McGuffey on which he and his wife and most Ameri 
cans of their day had been suckled. They browsed in second-hand 
bookshops. They knew best what they wanted and at the time Jie was 
more inclined to do things for himself than trust to hired agents. He 



NOSTALGIC JOURNEY INTO YESTERDAY 105 

could do his own reconnoitering then without drawing a crowd or 
needing a police detail. 

The eclectic readers were literary digests o their day. They con 
tained, in capsuled form, those things that McGufiey regarded as 
classic-the soliloquy of Hamlet, the Elegy of Gray, "Death of Little 
Nell," "The Raven," "Evangeline" his choice of the best from the 
whole body of English literature. McGufiey, the Indian fighter's son, 
had not written them; he merely assembled the material for the readers. 
Miami University made Ford a copy of the six-sided pedestal desk at 
which he did it. The six small books put out in endless editions gave 
the youth of America its first taste of world literature. 

Ford wound up with a collection of readers second only to that 
of the university where McGufiey once taught. He reprinted them, 
made them must reading in his own schools, became a devoted mem 
ber of the Federation of McGuffey Societies, made friends with whom 
he would trade duplicates and a blissful tip at times such as, "If you are 
short a third reader of 1844, write Anthony Harrendon, Pueblo, Col." 

He acquired and moved to Dearborn the cabin in Pennsylvania 
where the teacher was born, its flintlocks and powder horns, Ma's 
candle molds and Pa's shaving mug, and even a covered bridge over a 
country creek that barefoot McGufiey walked as a boy. 

He and Hamlin Garland, the author, not only shared a com 
mon resentment against theoretical farm lovers who painted rural life 
in rosy color as if cows milked themselves and crops were self-harvest 
ing, but both were McGuffey alumni. Ford would sit on one side of a 
desk and Garland on the other and try each other's memory on what 
McGuffey had put in his books. One would recite a line, the other 
would follow with a second, and they'd go on until one or the other 
was stumped then start afresh on other stanzas. 

Restoration of Ford's birthplace took on some of the complexion 
of a Nile archaeological party burrowing for a lost Ptolemy but, instead 
of a king, the excavators came on a prize just as good a broken piece 
of a dinner plate which provided a needed clue to the pattern of the 
china which William and Mary Ford had set upon the table before 
the problem boy, Henry, aged twelve and daft over machines. With it 
to go by, the cupboard was restocked to the last egg-cup. 

The house had memories missing from the later and larger 
establishment called Fair Lane. Here Ford was born and his mother 



166 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

died. From its windows he could see the church where he had been 
christened and down the road a piece had lived the girl he married. 
Beyond those fences he cleared timber when that happened and built 
a house with his own hands, felling the trees and sawing them into the 
proper lengths. 

Not that Fair Lane was regal It had no gold-fitted baths or sky 
lighted ballrooms such as 1945 GI's found when they clumped into the 
Villa Hugel of the Krupps at Essen. There were a half dozen rooms 
down, another six up, a billiard room, swimming pool, a bowling alley 
in the basement, and at one corner of the estate stood a bungalow where 
Ford used to entertain favored dealers in the halcyon days. As he got 
older he was more for and by himself. Other people usually wanted 
something, or he thought they did. 

Not a specimen of the original family china could be found 
when Ford got to the restoration. Not a relative and relatives were 
a dime a dozen had a cup or plate, but one had an ingenious 
idea. 

"Why don't you tear up some of the ground around the place?" 
this one suggested. "Ill bet some of them were broken at one time or 
other and they probably buried themselves." 

A crew with spades and sieves was at the exhumation next 
morning and each night one of their number would go to his office or 
home to show the rewards of the digging. They not only brought 
up shards by which the design of the old china was determined, as had 
been guessed, but a pair of blackened skates on which Ford used to 
travel the Detroit River in the winter. 

And then he came to the Red Horse Tavern, or Wayside Inn, 
immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and run by four 
generations of Howes at Sudbury, Mass., since David put it up in 1686. 
Here many a dressy blade of history slept and swigged. Here Haw 
thorne's Molyneaux scratched on a window glass; 



Who do you 

Here is good drinJ^ 

Perhaps you may not faow it; 

If not in haste 

Do stop and taste 

You merry folJ^ tuill show it. 



NOSTALGIC JOURNEY INTO YESTERDAY 167 

Longfellow had found the hostelry the right muse for his Tales 
of a Wayside Inn, despite his reference to a "kind of Hobgoblin Hall 
now somewhat fallen to decay." Ford put the hobgoblin in sequins and 
gave it a renovating hair-do. Bostonians tried to raise money to do the 
same thing but failed, and asked the Fords to join them. But the Fords 
did not take in partners; they took over. They paid $175,000 for the inn 
and got free and clear control. As soon as the declasse structure took 
on some of its original glory the waitresses struck the heartbreak of 
ladies who said their wages and tips ran to $15 a day before Ford de 
cided to turn back the clock and install a tipless day rate of $6. But 
despite the moans of the stricken ladies picketing on the turnpike, 
that's the way it stayed. 

Ford loved the inn. He skated often on its pond and roamed its 
meadows and the country about it. Wayside came to be a must in the 
guide-books. He was there when I spent a night at the tavern, and I 
joked with him about the ropes curled at the upper windows as emer 
gency exits in case of fire. How was anyone to slide out those narrow 
windows and get to the ground? 

"You don't think they could?" he asked. 

I said I was positive they couldn't. Ropes might be germane to 
the period, but not practical. 

"Wait here." He was off. 

He vanished in the house and appeared a few seconds later at a 
second-story window. He was sixty then. He allowed the rope to play 
out to the ground, and then climbed out and slid easily down without 
bothering to loop the rope about him. 

"Easy as that," he said, as he wiped his hands with a handker 
chief and asked one of the surprised hotel staff to go upstairs and roll 
up the fire-escape again. 

His avidity for accuracy was applied to the tavern. A Sudbury 
woman with whom he danced said she did not think the floor of the 
ballroom on the second floor had the spring it did when she was a girl. 
In the remodeling, stout supporting posts had been erected under the 
floor. Ford put back the bounce she missed. A month later large car 
springs were installed in the tops of the two pillars and the wainscot 
ing was made to slide. 

He said once that the inn was his way of saying thanks to Long 
fellow for his "Psalm of Life," and one expected him to mention great 



168 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

men's footprints in the sands of time but he didn't. He had in mind, 
lie said, four other verses those that began "Tell me not in mournful 
numbers life is but an empty dream" and "Life is real! Life is earnest!" 
and the beginning of the sixth, "Trust no future, howe'er pleasant" and 
finally the ninth, "Let us then be up and doing." 

The remark of a transient at Wayside hoisted Ford to the saddle 
of another hobbyhorse a wooly one. The visitor said it probably was 
not generally known that in nearby Sterling was what was left of the 
school to which the lamb followed Mary in the jingle of school days, 
and that a descendant of the embarrassed Mary occupied now the same 
house Mary did then. Was not this Americana? Was he not custodian 
of good portions of Americana? His head on the pillow that night, he 
considered if he should bring to active functioning again the school of 
Mary and the lamb and put it into shape so children might sit in its 
seats again. It would delight them, wouldn't it? There was the pos 
sibility, of course, that the guest had been gulled by irresponsible 
hearsay. Well, he closed his eyeshe'd see to it in the morning. 

Within seven months the foundations and framework of the 
original school, transferred to a side road between Wayside and a farm 
Babe Ruth used to own, had been worked into a replica of the old one. 
It was reborn and reoccupied, and early-rising Ford was at the door 
the wintry morning when the first sixteen pupils arrived and took their 
inkwells out of the niches in the warm chimney where Mary and her 
friends also kept theirs from freezing. 

Information on the school was gathered in box-car lots. A col 
lection of 200 manuscripts on the incident was acquired. Mrs. Christo 
pher Tyler, nee Sawyer, a matron of a Somerville, Mass, asylum and 
the Mary of the doggerel, had died in 1889 and was buried in Bos 
ton. She had soured pretty thoroughly over the publicity the verses got 
her and politely avoided the subject in later years as much as she 
could. 

John Roulstone, author of the original three stanzas, had died at 
seventeen, a divinity freshman at Harvard. Aged twelve, he had been 
amused by eleven-yearold Mary's embarrassment that day in 1817 when 
she walked up the aisle to recite and the lamb clumped up after her, 
and next morning he rode across his father's fields and gave her a sheet 
of paper with the three verses upon it. 

The lamb was gored by a cow and died in Mary's arms shortly 



NOSTALGIC JOURNEY INTO YESTERDAY 169 

after the scandal at the schoolhouse, and the only surviving reminders 
of the ewe's ever being real, aside from the poem and what people said, 
were two pairs of stockings the mother of Mary knitted from the wool 
of its first shearing. They were unraveled and snips of them sold, 
with Mary's autograph, when Boston raised money to save old South 
Church. 

The primitive school itself was opened in 1796., sold in 1856 for 
$35.50 and eventually became part of a church garage in Sterling, with 
of course no thought it would ever rise to the distinction of bronze 
tablets and cars with foreign licenses at its doors. 

It is considered part of good husbandry to remove the tails of 
lambs but it wasn't safe practice when Ford's head was spinning with 
such staves as "Bah, bah, black sheep, have you any wool?" and par 
ticularly the one about those who'd come home dragging their "tails 
behind them." 

I came upon a red-faced farm superintendent one morning who 
had seen no relation between the boss's current hobby and standard 
sanitary procedure of the time. While Ford was out of town, the shep 
herd had been struck with the idea that the lambs looked shabby and 
he cut off their tails. It turned out to be the wrong thing to do when an 
owner was carrying a torch for lambs with tails. Ford had been thun 
derstruck when he saw his own lambs. 

"He is back and he just fined me $200." The farm manager 
paused as though reflecting on the crime that no agricultural -college 
would have thought a crime at all. The angry flush deepened. "I've got 
to give the two hundred bucks to the Community Fund, he says." The 
taifcclipper groaned and drew his hand over his eyes as if to shut out 
the whole matter. 

Nor was the filming of Mary and the lamb without incident. 

"We'll do it ourselves," said Ford confidently, and started casting 
at once. "Your daughter will be Mary," he said to the executive across 
the desk. "You go ahead with the whole thing." 

The official was a good bit busy at the time. He was buying prop 
erty for railroad yards, had his fingers deep in three other company 
pies, and he found he was not always able to give the necessary time to 
the proposed film, in which first rehearsals centered on creation of a 
cordial alliance between his daughter and a chosen lamb from the Ford 
farm, so she could handle it and the animal would follow her. As often 



170 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

as he could, however, the father would deliver the young lady to the 
pasture and she would lean over the fence or go into the field and try 
to make friends with the lamb. But whether the animal was shy or had 
no acting sense, the progress was slow. Besides, as other work pressed 
on him, the father of the actress, Mary, was not always able to deliver 
her on location, and it seemed her courtship of the lamb took a lot of 
time from her regular school work. 

"I see you weren't with us last night," Ford said one morning. 
The executive explained the difficulty of synchronizing business calls 
with the movie schedule. 

"Yes, I know," Ford could see the trouble and had hit upon a 
way to overcome it. "I was .thinking we would send over a lamb and a 
pen and put them in your back yard/' he said. He looked for an assent 
that was hard to withhold. In that way, he said, the twilight trips to the 
farm could be by-passed. 

When the official reached home the same night he found a stock- 
ade and a doghouse, an uncooperative lamb, some straw to bed it down 
and neighborhood kids lined along the fences shouting "Ba-a-a!" and 
the lamb, interested in the phenomenon, spiritedly yelling "Ba-a-a!" 
right back. A farm truck delivered milk each morning for the animal. 
At least the backward lamb had a star's perquisites. 

About dawn it would wake before the neighborhood and have a 
spree of bleating. Occasionally it would break out of the corral and a 
volunteer posse would take after it. Household life was further com 
plicated by the fact that even after the children of the town had been 
persuaded not to engage in their face-to-face contest, they would let out 
cries in passing on the far side of the street and the challenged captive 
would give ear and bleat defiance. 

The daily exchange between lamb and children became such a 
fixture that even when the shooting of scenes finally was transferred 
east and the executive's back lawn was emptied of lamb, pen, milk and 
straw, the kids continued to "Baa" members of the family. They were 
able to go off barbitols, however, and get some welcome sleep. 

None of the three lambs drafted ever seemed able to get it through 
its skull that it was supposed to follow Mary adoringly and lie 
down and be tended by her. That was the way it had to be. Mary had 
saved the original lamb by careful nursing and catnip tea; it thus be 
came devoted to her and trotted after her to school. It was not possible 



NOSTALGIC JOURNEY INTO YESTERDAY 171 

to doctor fact. I it was not catnip for the lamb, Mary was getting 
clover tops for the horses, and on all the evidence it was only a matter 
of time before a horse would have followed her to school, if it had not 
been for the ewe making a show of her. 

Just when the movie lamb was up in its lines it had fattened so 
much in long rehearsal that a smaller lamb, with fresh obstinacy and 
no idea of what was wanted, had to be substituted and the grind be 
gun again. The second had to be let out for the same reasons: swelling 
girth and failure to snap into the role. A third appeared. 

With that the troup moved to location on Redstone Hill, Mass., 
scene of the original episode, and eventually the project was turned 
over to professionals. Somewhere they got a lamb who recognized the 
story possibilities and the rare chance to get its name into lights. 

Ford listened in wonder to one enchanting story which took a 
great deal of labor and travel to fit together and had him on the edge 
of his chair for a year. Voltaire, Plutarch, Goethe and Thomas Jefferson 
said, in so many words, that history was bunk, but when Ford testified 
he thought so, too, in a libel suit against the Chicago Tribune, there 
was much excited slavering and pointing of fingers in his direction. He 
was scoffed at by those who scoff easily, but as a poultice for his sores, 
if he needed any, he had many letters from people who said he was' 
right and offered proof of what they thought historical misstatements 
a list of dark spots in the past which later-day bookkeepers had white 
washed, and stories which seemed to bear out the thesis that recorded 
history was a cracked and convex looking-glass. 

Among the miscellany were two copies of the same book. Ford 
tossed one of them on the desk of Fred L. Black, one of his Warwicks, 
and said he had been awake with the other until 4 o'clock that morn 
ing. 

"Quite a tale," he admitted. 

The book was The Escape and Suicide of John Wildes Booth, 
and the pretentious sub-title was: The First True Account of Lincoln's 
Assassination. The author was Finis L. Bates, a lawyer of Memphis, 
Tenn., the publication date 1907. 

"Read it over," Ford suggested as his subordinate thumbed 
through the pages, "and let me know tomorrow what you think of it." 

He was back and seated across the desk again as soon as Black 
hung up his hat next day. Well, what was his opinion? 



172 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Black said it was a whopping tale fascinating. Ford agreed it 
sure was, but was it true. 

"I'd want to see a number of statements checked before I could 
swallow it," Black turned skeptic. He thought some of the purported 
evidence weak, some too pat and seemingly scissored to order. 

The Bates contention: The actor Booth had not been shot to 
death under the locusts of the Richard H. Garrett farm south of Wash 
ington, eleven days after the murder of Lincoln, but took poison in his 
bed, as David George, house painter, thirty-eight years later in Enid, 
Oklahoma. Bates professed to have in his garage the remains of the 
assassin. 

"Let's get this fellow up here and see what he has to say for him 
self," Ford recommended. 

The Memphis lawyer admitted the need of caulking some of 
the holes in his narrative. If Ford would put up $8,000 he'd do a more 
intensive investigation to fortify the weak spots. His home was mort 
gaged and otherwise he just couldn't afford to drop his law practice to 
scuttle around the country clearing up the disputed points. The re 
sultant new book he would write, he was sure, would have tremendous 
sales, and he and Ford would share the applause for correcting a pal 
pable historical untruth. 

"Ill put the mummy in your hands as collateral," the lawyer 
offered. 

But Ford did not want any mummy put in his hands for $8,000 
or $1,000, the rock-bottom price it was reduced to. (The carcass 
later had an unreal career, being sold dissected in Chicago, seized 
for debt in Omaha, threatened with hanging by Civil War veterans in 
Pennsylvania, exciting the bug-eyed who paid their dimes to see it on 
carnival circuits.) Bates was put off and he returned to Memphis. 

"You nose out the truth." Ford turned to Black. The project 
thus set afoot belonged by its twists and thoroughness of execution and 
dramatis personae with the pukka sahib's best. The trail ran long 
and led through fourteen states and to crossroads never heard of. 
Stories told were as dissimilar as the dissimilar people who told them. 

The cast included Lincoln and Booth, a Zouave suspect plum 
meting from a cliff to escape pursuers, a leathery mummy in a 
Tennessee barn when not rented out to tent shows, an ex-New York 
Sun reporter, who had discovered an embalming secret of the Egyp- 



NOSTALGIC JOURNEY INTO YESTERDAY 173 

tians, a fugitive hidden in Ceylon, a Texas saloonkeeper claiming a 
decade after the assassination that he was Booth, an Oklahoma mor 
phine addict dying a suicide in 1903 and confessing he killed Lincoln, 
and an Atlanta clergyman, the Rev. J. G. Armstrong, who did not say 
he was or wasn't the murderer of the President but about whom the 
myth-makers of his parish had ideas. 

There was such furniture of drama as derringers and drugs and 
deathbed confessions, doctors* affidavits and secret remittances, horses 
driven into quicksand and shot, a body buried headless, the rusty 
threat of "Tell a word of this and I'll slit your throat." 

Black spent a tireless twelve months groping methodically and 
persistently in the misty labyrinth of this cloak-and-dagger classic. 

The official version of Booth's flight and death eleven days after 
the assassination is familiar the concealment of the body for fear hot 
heads might make off with it and use it to inflame Southern sympa 
thizers to new revolt, the later ample identification by scars and jewelry 
and diary, the trial and hanging of four conspirators, subsequent 
exhumation of the remains and burial in the family plot at Baltimore. 
But the romancers would not be denied. It was said the body had been 
buried headless ... it had been taken to sea on a gunboat, weighted 
and sunk . . . two years after the slaying a sea captain wrote that 
Booth was in hiding on the island of Ceylon. Others insisted Booth 
never died as the government said. 

Bates set up two major claims: (i) A saloonkeeper client, John 
St. Helen, had sworn him to secrecy in Granbury, Texas, in 1876 and 
then announced he was Booth. (2) A house painter named David E. 
George died of self-administered poison in Enid, Okla., in 1903, saving 
his last whispered words for a similar confession. Bates had gone to 
Enid, professed to see in George his old friend St. Helen, and claimed 
the remains. The implication was that the government had paid $75,000 
in rewards for a man not Booth. 

Ford's investigator, Black, found that the alleged St. Helen con 
fession, moreover, was no skin-and-bones affair. It embodied the gen 
erally known facts published in many newspapers up to the now ques 
tioned capture, and thus known to many people, but Bates had Booth 
or St. Helen leaving the Garretts, taking to the underbrush when told 
of approaching troops, posing as a Rebel soldier by day, sleeping in 
creek bottoms by night, making his way unrecognized and unsus- 



i 7 4 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

pected across ail alerted continent afoot, by horse and as driver of a 
wagon train, until he joined up with his mother and brother, Junius, 
on the West Coast. Then Mexico and finally to harbor in Granbury. 

Why had he killed Lincoln? St. Helen was quoted as saying he 
did it at the instigation of the vice-president of the United States, 
Andrew Johnson, so the Tennessean might become president and make 
reconstruction easier on the beaten South. The exact dying words of the 
man., who did not die, were: 

"I am dying. I am not John St. Helen but John Wilkes Booth. I 
am the assassin of Lincoln. There is a tintype under my pillow. I leave 
it with you for future identification. Notify my brother Edwin Booth 
in New York." 

And followed the windy tale of flight from the rail of Lincoln's 
box at the theatre to the Pacific Coast, the haze increasing as the Garrett 
farm and the substantiated events receded. Black quickly discovered 
that two main points conflicted with established fact: 

^ In the Bates report of St. Helen's "confession," Booth and a collu- 
sionist had stayed at a tavern ten miles out of Washington and did not 
reach the city until 3 o'clock the afternoon of the assassination. Yet it 
had been established that Booth got a haircut in a Washington barber 
shop at 9 A.M. the same day; and he called at Ford's theatre for mail 
about noon, being seen by five persons. 

St. Helen exhibited to Bates, the lawyer said, scars on his right 
leg which he attributed to his jump from the theatre box to the stage 
in his flight. Yet at the conspiracy trial the doctor who taped the fugi 
tive Booth swore it was the left foot which was fractured and from 
which he had to slit a shoe. 

Between what Bates wrote and old settlers remembered in the 
Ford agent's inquiry was a considerable gulf. Bates described the 
saloonkeeper as constantly reciting Shakespeare, making fine speeches, 
appearing at public entertainments a social favorite "who held all 
men to polite behavior" and a leader in amusing games. 

Men still living recalled St. Helen as a "typical saloon desperado, 
who kept away from social gatherings, never was seen to read a book, 
was hardly able to make a speech because of asthma, became dramatic 
only when warmed by whiskey, received a deep cut from a half-breed's 
knife in a bloody scuffle." 

After Bates had done with the known published facts in the re- 



NOSTALGIC JOURNEY INTO YESTERDAY 175 

puted disclosures, he was vague as to dates, names and places. He 
hinted of secret remittances that kept St. Helen going, but old-timers 
told Ford's investigator the saloonkeeper never had more money than 
he normally could earn out of his business. He packed one day and left 
Granbury and no one there saw him again. 

On the night of April 13, 1903, the house painter George died in 
a hotel room in Enid, and whether he said on his deathbed or not that 
he was Booth, he told a woman so in El Reno, Okla. Three years pre 
viously on a sickbed he wrote on a slip of paper the words, "I am 
going to die before the sun goes down," and signed it "J- Wilkes 
Booth." 

His confidante was Mrs. J. E. Harper, a guest at the house where 
George roomed when he took an overdose of morphine. She was sit 
ting at his bedside, and, in a benumbing moment for her, he rose up and 
said: "I have killed one of the best men who ever lived, Abraham 
Lincoln." She thought he was delirious. A police official who knew the 
habits of the El Reno carpenter put it down as the imaginings of a 
drugged mind. 

The George "confession" differed from known fact in this: 
Nothing was said of the flight that led south in the Maryland night. 
Instead, this Booth declared that, after the assassination, friends con- 
cealed him in a trunk and put him on a vessel for Europe, where he 
had stayed ten years. 

When Mrs. Harper read in an Enid newspaper of the suicide of 
George three years later, she told the undertakers what the house painter 
had once told her, and suggested they look into it. 

The Bates book implied that Mrs. Harper had known the house 
painter for some time, declaring he was well supplied with money, the 
origin of which no one knew;, stating he was an eccentric who claimed 
to be a house painter but actually did no work at it, and describing 
George as a well-known figure on the streets of Guthrie and Enid. 

To the Ford representative she categorically denied each and all 
of these statements. She had known George casually for two months, 
said he worked steadily as a painter, if he got funds from a secret 
source it was news to her, and she had no knowledge whether he was 
well known or not in Enid and Guthrie. Only the confession itself of 
George to Mrs. Harper wholly withstood close scrutiny. 

The book said the house painter had bought a $3,500 cottage in 



176 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

El Reno. Courthouse records showed a down payment of $350 and 
a mortgage o $350 on a small place which George sold within four 
months of buying. 

The alleged deathbed confession of George and the identification 
of the body at the morgue developed some cloudy aspects; also, Bates 
had George saying, through an alleged eyewitness: "I have only to 
say my name is not George but John Wilkes Booth and I request that 
my body be sent to the morgue for identification," and the under 
taker saying when Bates appeared at the mortuary: "We need no pic 
ture to identify this man in your presence. This is the same man as 
your tintype shows." 

When Black made his probe for Ford, an ex-guest at the hotel 
on the night of the suicide said he climbed through a transom when he 
heard groans inside George's room, and sent for a doctor, but that 
George died without a word before the doctor could administer "a 
hypodermic. 

The undertaker said: "I was never able to see any striking re 
semblance between the body and the tintype. In fact, Bates asked me to 
do all I could to make the body look like die picture and so we combed 
the hair and mustache accordingly." 

He and his partner had concocted a new embalming fluid. The 
death of the impoverished George was a heaven-sent chance to try it 
out. Miraculously it worked. It preserved the body for years and made 
possible its exhibition in circuses years after death, under the challeng 
ing banner, One Thousand Dollars to Anyone Who Can Prove This 
Is Not John Wildes Booth. 

I have been unable to trace the mummy in recent years but in 
1938 it was reported as still going strong, the property of an ex-tattooed 
man of the Wallace-Hagenbeck circus. 

Bates said in his book that a letter was left for him by the suicide 
but was stolen from the body in the morgue before he arrived. He also 
claimed he received a telegram to come to Enid to identify the remains 
but lost the wire. The Enid undertaker said: "Bates wired me to ask i 
he could see the body if he came to town. He read the story of the death 
in a Memphis newspaper." 

Re-editing of newspaper accounts reprinted in the book were re 
garded as questionable. In one revision the word * e almost" became 
"absolutely" in the sentence, "The Boojh chin, mouth, upper lip and 



NOSTALGIC JOURNEY INTO YESTERDAY 177 

general description is ALMOST perfect in the corpse." A story in the 
Enid Wave describing George's handwriting was changed from "large 
round-letter schoolboy writing" to "round scrawly boy writing.'* Black 
found no similarity between the chirography of the note George wrote 
and signed for Mrs. Harper and official specimens of the Booth hand 
writing. 

A. McCager, another Tennessean, swore his stepmother married 
Booth in 1872, not knowing his true identity, and that later the actor 
explained to her some leg sores with the petrifying statement: "I got 
them. Miss Lou, at the Ford theatre when I killed Abraham Lincoln." 
Booth, or whoever it was, told McCager, the son said, he would cut his 
throat if he blabbed. 

Blanche Booth, an actress-niece of the assassin, said she was with 
a touring company hi El Reno in December, 1902, when a man came 
to her lodgings and she slammed her door on him, thinking him some 
.stagestruck citizen and not wishing to be bothered. He left a card, 
however, and later when she read it, she said, "she thought she recog 
nized the writing of her notorious uncle. 

Periodically, Black would return to Dearborn and run his rushes, 
the house would darken, the screen light up, and Ford would sit back 
and gustily enjoy another episode in the serial. His interest never 
diminished and he sighed a little when he knew there would be no 
more performances. 

The conclusions: Neither St. Helen nor George was John 
Wilkes Booth. The actor had died as the record said and was buried 
in Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore. 

"I think," said Black, "the pair were egomaniacs who belong 
only in historical fiction. 9 ' 

Ford turned at the door on the way out. "Tell Mr. Bates we're 
no longer interested." 

But Mary's lamb, Booth's body, the scouring of the country for 
a stove just like the one in the homestead all these were but pre 
liminaries to the main event. 

He was not quite ready for that but soon would be. It was to be 
the capsheaf, but its form was not clear in his mind. He had just a 
vague suspicion. He would shortly set out on two hundred acres a 
museum, a village and a whole educational system to show youth, while 
priming it for the future, what the past had been. 



173 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

The race would be better off i children did not have to lean 
wholly on textbooks or what adults told them, for adults were not al 
ways as sure o their facts as they let on. If the youngsters were to know 
the furniture of Sheraton and the china of Wedgwood, they should 
see and handle it. They would know a town pump if it was there and 
they used it. It would be best if they went down the well to Wonder 
land with Alice and the rabbit who had a watch and did not merely 
wait and take her word for what she saw when she returned. 

The next project would be his chef d'oeuvre. It would give the 
kids something he did not have himself when he was a boy and often 
regretted he didn't a fine education. 



Greenfield milage emerges 
from the yearnings for the 
past of a man who professed 
to helieve largely in today 
and tomorrow. 



CHAPTER XIII 
CURIOSITY SHOP 



IN LOOKING for the original chairs and china, the shawl or tea- 
cozy or antimacassar of the home he grew up in, Henry Ford began 
to poke about antique shops. In searching for a missing object he 
became interested in others he remembered as a boy but which his 
family did not happen to own. 

He would pick up some article wonderingly and exclaim, 
"Mother, I remember this; the Carlsons had one just like it, didn't 
they?" 

His interest pivoted at first on the period of his youth but he 
kept going back farther and farther back, buying more and more. His 
fate was that of most collectors the road had no end. One thing led 
inevitably to another. 

The excursion into the past and his relish for its products con 
tradicted his philosophy, in a way. He was indifferent to ancestry. 
When he bought a blue-ribbon herd of Ayrshires from an Indianian 
who had spent thousands on pedigreed cattle, Ford threw away the 
papers attesting their blood lines. "It doesn't matter what a man's 
grandfather did or was," he said flatly, and tore up the biographies. 

In refurnishing Wayside Inn he bought more fifrnishings than 
the tavern ever could hold. He bought whole collections by the gross, 
entire shops. The mortality rate of post road shoppes ran high, urban 
auction rooms abounded in his agents, galleries of note were apprised 
that Ford was in the market for such and such and to be on the look 
out, and he roamed the corduroy roads himself, playing 'possum by 

179 



i8o THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

calling himself Mr. Robinson or Mr. Henry and falling out of the sky 
unannounced on someone who had, he heard^ some salt glaze or Blue 
Staffordshire. 

A blue-eyed springy oldster would walk into a shop, brighten 
over some miscellany he saw, whisper a few words to a companion and 
go out. The companion would glance about off-handedly after Ford 
departed and suddenly ask: "Will you put a price on your entire stock ?' ? 
A week later the plunder would be unloading at Dearborn. He did 
not know frequently what he had bought until the unpacking. 

A thousand shiny new Ford automobiles pushed off; a thousand 
gimcracks from curiosity shops pulled in on the sidings. He seemed to 
have no plan in mind for it except to build the mountain higher. 

Years later, after the phobia had paid off in tidy achievement, I 
spent some time with one of Ford's many retired lieutenants. He had 
not shared Ford's fire but he had marveled at it. 

"There was a time it wasn't safe to pass a rusty plow," he re 
flected. Ford certainly had it bad then. The ex-right-hand-man spoke 
wistfully. "If I managed to see the plow first," he remembered, 'Td 
draw his attention to the other side of the road. If I didn't he'd be out 
of the car and up to the farm door to dicker for that damned scrap/* 

You know, he recollected, Ford would paint up that old heap 
and replace the pieces it needed and in a month it would be as good as 
new. It beat him, he said. What good was it when he got it done? It 
was simply a plow thirty years behind the times. 

Charles E. Sorensen, his production wizard, got the better of 
Ford once. His millions could not buy everything. For years Ford was 
after a dubious prize that "Cast-Iron" Charlie would not give up. It was, 
of all things, a Bible, and not a rare one. 

Before the United States got into World War I, Ford, already 
dreaming on colossal lines, stopped one morning in the center of a 
swampy field along the Detroit River and gestured with his two hands 
in a sweeping motion. 

"Well build it here," he announced. 

"It" was the mastodon of all Ford works, the River Rouge plant. 

Sorensen chanced to walk into a deserted Methodist Church on 
the property before the wreckers got to it. 

On the dusty cushion of a pew was an 1851 Bible left by some 
evicted worshipper. On the cover was gilt embossed, "To Mother -from 



CURIOSITY SHOP 181 

James," and one or the other had written with a pen two scriptural 
quotations on the title page. One was: "But seek ye first the Kingdom 
of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto 
you." The other was misquoted: "What should it profit a man if he 
gained the whole world and loses his soul?" 

The book was an apple of discord for years. 

"You got it off company property, Charlie, didn't you?" Ford 
would contend. 

"I was the one who found it." 

"Whatll you take for it?" 

"Nothing." 

"It's mine," Ford would reassert. 

"You haven't a chance of getting it." 

Ford said he kind of liked the second biblical quotation, 

"You do? Me too!" his balky subordinate would say and not 
soften. 

The conversation was repeated in a hundred forms in a hundred 
places but the production man never gave in and Ford never was able 
to coax it from him. 

"Want to sell it?" 

"I've got all the money I need and you say I can write my own 
ticket if I want more." Sorensen spurned the cash offer. 

"That's true, Charlie, but I sure would like the book, if you ever 
see your way clear." 

Ford would drop the subject maybe for a year until Sorensen 
was almost sure he had forgotten it and then he'd bring up the subject 
some day when they were riding somewhere. 

The mountain of treasure grew Alpine mugs and churns 
and footwarmers and Apostle spoons statuettes by Rogers and silver 
by Paul Revere, lidded boxes and perfume vials of a faraway day before 
scents became parfum guaranteed to knock a male silly at a single 
inhalation Chippendale and Hepplewhite, Hadley and Duncan Phyfe 
Old World ceramics, a stuffed owl from an old-time barber shop, 
flails and plows and footed compotes and a gate-leg table at which 
Lafayette dined and wined porcelain caddies and decanters, banjo 
clocks, French crocus pots and handpumps houses and inns and 
forges and mills. 

The granddaughter of Peter Cooper of Cooper Union tendered 



i8a THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

her collection of silver-studded harness and eighteen carriages. Lincoln 
had ridden in one and another bore Theodore Roosevelt to his inaugu 
ral. William Howard Taft sent a saddle and gold-braided blanket. 
Occasionally Ford seemed to pick up certain articles more because they 
were old than collectible, but they were desirable to him and that was 
enough. 

He bought so freely in his collecting period that much went un 
assorted and uncatalogued for years. If fervor led him into mistakes, he 
could afford them; and he was a great hand to find profit in those he 
made himself. 

He had decided to flitch-saw his Northern Michigan timber and 
his veteran superintendent said it would not work, damn it. 

"When I want something done my way, that's the way I want 
it." Ford was frigid. 

"Well, of all the tomfoolishness!" The woodsman spun on his 
heel and stomped off to give the order that was all wrong by his 
experience. 

I was in an office with the forthright lumberman and another 
executive when it had been decided many months later to change direc 
tion after a fortune had been sunk in timber operations. Ford had won 
his way, of course, in pressing for experiments that did not pan out. 

He had paid his men three times the prevailing wage, did the best 
and probably the first selective logging in Michigan. He never mis 
treated soil knowingly. While taking timber out he wanted to conserve. 
He wouldn't skim the thing, take the profit and let future generations 
suffer. Some experiments flopped. What he did couldn't be done and 
compete in the market. 

"So we lost $20,000,000, eh?" he remarked as he walked into the 

room. 

The other men were grave but Ford did not seem blue. "Well," 
he said, "I guess we'd better change that." He sat down and talked for 
a while of the soured innovations, as one who had merely dropped a 
penny through a crack in an old wooden walk. Yes, the company would 
wash it out. 

He finally had to go and he got up. "We learned something, 
didn't we? We have to pay for an education," he paused at the door for 
the last understatement, "I guess it was uneconomical." He was out and 
down the hall. He wrote it off like that. After all there would be ways 



CURIOSITY SHOP 183 

to get the money back, and if not, what he had lost was only money 
and he had stacks. 

The period pieces mounted higher first a few odds and ends, a 
tableful, a jammed room, a packed building, then several bursting 
warehouses. Edsel remonstrated that the hodgepodge was getting to be 
a fixe hazard. 

"We really ought to get the stuff out of here, Father," he sug 
gested. "Let's make a museum of it." 

The senior Ford said that was not exactly what he had in mind 
but he wasn't sure yet what disposal he would make of it. Once he was 
disdainful of a psychiatrist I mentioned who collected streetcar trans 
fers, for some reason hard to understand. 

"What in the world is he going to do with them?" the motor- 
maker snorted. 

"I don't know," I said, "but what are you going to do with all 
your stuff?" 

He said he didn't know for certain, either. 

He acquired more acres of curiosa, had promises of much to 
come the Uxbridge, Mass., blacksmith shop whose smithy Longfellow 
had made famous, the boardinghouse of Sarah Jordan in Jersey which 
was the terminus of the first successful demonstration of the electric 
light outside Edison's workshop, Wedgwood and Leedsware and 
Chelsea, the first mill to produce silk by power in America, a Cape 
Cod windmill the Pilgrims put up, a desk of John Hancock, a carding 
mill near his home where he went with his father with raw wool as a 
boy to have it made into rovings for his mother to spin into yarn on the 
wheel at home. 

The idea of Greenfield Village which with other units of the 
development was to cost him an estimated $25,000,000 shaped up 
slowly. He did not want a dead museum that he was sure of. Gradu 
ally the picture took form. He would have a village which would be a 
cross-section of a hundred villages, grouped about a central green in 
the colonial pattern, but of no fixed era. 

In Virginia the Rockefellers restored Williamsburg; at Dear 
born Ford built a village that was a conglomeration of periods. Herbs 
would be planted in a likeness of a Greek garden of the thirteenth cen 
tury; a limestone house would be taken apart, stone by stone, in the 
Cotswold hills of England and brought across the Atlantic, so that one 



184 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

could see how the Pilgrims lived when they set out adventurously for 
a new shore. 

In Ford's village a visitor would see how the pioneers lived 
tallow to gaslight to electricityhow their progressive sons im 
proved on ancestral living surrey to tandem to jalopy to wings. It 
would be an engineer's idea of history a re-creation o a civilization 
from the objects that it used its tools, its utensils and its ornaments. 

He was suspicious of experts and he trusted largely to his own 
judgments. I remember standing with him when he was talking to a 
landscape authority about certain changes he might want. The archi 
tect suggested ways to improve the scene. Goodbys were said eventually 
and he drove off. 

"Know the trouble with these landscape people?" Ford grimaced, 
as the architect's car turned into the main road. "If there are a lot of 
trees, they say they must cut some down to get a vista; if there are no 
trees, they say they've got to put in some to break up the vista." So 
much, he thought, for "authorities." 

Thousands of words have been written of Greenfield Village. 
Thousands of visitors have browsed there. I do not intend to inventory 
its treasure. The catalogues do the job amply, but the eternal flames, 
honored business in the hamlet, are a story on which the guidebooks are 
silent and which spiced life in their beginnings. 

The fancy for perpetual monuments of fire was born in the 
squire of Greenfield as he watched in a sobering moment, some say, 
the light of the Paris tomb lave the last repose of- France's soldier. The 
inspiration may have been the less romantic fact that Ford accepted 
flame as a continuous living force. It endured, as he wanted memory of 
him and his car to endure. The flooring of his museum cost $325,000 
because he demanded a wood that would last a thousand years, and the 
builders obliged with teak. 

Herbert Hoover lighted one fire in the transplanted Logan 
County courthouse where Lincoln pleaded cases as a fledgling. Thomas 
A. Edison put match to a second in the original clapboard shop where 
the incandescent bulb was born, and a granddaughter of Stephen Col 
lins Foster, beloved of balladists, lit the stove in the cottage where her 
illustrious forebear first drew breath. 

The success of Ford in getting a light, symbolically, from the 
dead hand of Foster was a work of ingenuity and had overtones of 



CURIOSITY SHOP 185 

drama. The original plan was to bring the closest lining descendant, 
in direct line, to Dearborn to light the flame, but a shattering telegram 
arrived at the eleventh hour. Marion Foster Welch, daughter o the 
bard, was ill in Pittsburgh and her doctor said her presence was out 
of the question. 

What Ford wanted, his zeal and junior generals usually got for 
him, and the panic was only temporary. He walked into the laboratory 
the day after the wired news with a new program which bore the 
hallmarks of phantasy. 

"We'll do this," he said and proceeded to sketch out what it was 
he wanted done, to the last minuscular detail. 

Foster had closed his eyes, true, the year after Ford opened his, 
so naturally a light from the composer's own hand was not attainable. 
His wife was dead, tOQJeanie of the Light Brown Hair, a song 
which was to head the hit parade eighty-seven years after it was written 
and please the customers all the way from Smoky Joe's in Tuscaloosa to 
the oval room of the Ritz. Their daughter was alive but sick. Very 
well: 

Find a couple of railroad lanterns. They were strong, and thick 
wire shields protected the glass. Take two, so one will be left if one is 
broken. They are not to be shipped, but delivered by a company driver 
to the Ford representative in Pittsburgh. Tell him long distance what 
he is to do and follow with confirmatory letter of precise instructions 
by the driver. The agent is to take the lanterns to the home of Mrs. 
Welch, describe the epochal pickle the company is in, and have the sick 
woman light them. 

A tired courier in a spattered Lincoln delivered the two lanterns 
and a supply of over-sized matches to the Pittsburgh Ford agent at day 
break, and the doorbell of the Welch home rang a few hours later. 

"Do you really believe you are strong enough to do this, Mrs* 
Welch?" the official asked solicitously, after the nurse had taken him 
into the sick room. He had talked by phone with her the previous 
evening and she had quickly agreed. She was quite strong enough to 
help; it was just that she was too weak for a journey to Detroit. 

The agent placed the lanterns and matches on a table and smiled 
down a little apologetically on the willing co-star. 

"I can manage it," she said. "Nurse, just prop me up, will you?" 
She paused for a sip from a glass beside her. The nurse put a steadying 



i86 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

hand between her shoulders. "Now," Mrs. Welch suggested, "give me a 
match and hold up a lantern." 

She lighted both quite easily. A different match was used on 
each, and when the wicks glowed evenly, what was left of the charred 
sticks was packed in cotton-batting in a pasteboard box. 

"Well, we did it," said the patient with gayety as she looked at 
the two lamps shining on her dressing table. Her visitor said he didn't 
know the right words to thank her. 

"I think I am doing very little for a father who did so much," 
she said. She also said she thought she knew exactly how Ford felt. 
"I suspect," she guessed, "they're the songs he sang at socials, in his days 
of wooing, at his mother's organ." 

The Ford agent himself climbed on a train a few hours later 
with the two pieces of bizarre baggage an open crate containing the 
lighted lanterns and the small box holding the unspent halves of the 
matches. He sat up most of the night to make sure no impious draft 
undid his work and his career in Pittsburgh. 

The sequel was written at the dedication when seventy descend 
ants of the bard gathered in the rooms and on the lawn of the cottage 
with other guests, and Stephen Foster, who left the world a lush legacy 
at a basement price and never earned more than $1,500 in his best year, 
was formally ushered into the private Ford parthenon. 

A granddaughter of the composer took one of the matches her 
mother used in Pittsburgh and touched it to one of the lanterns and 
then to the readied wood in the kitchen range. 

The songs of Foster expressed the sentiments that warmed him 
in an idiom Ford understood. He liked and sang with enthusiasm such 
"lyrics as Come Where My Love Lies "Dreaming and Old Dog Tray, 
and in time, of course, the cottage had a stand-in for the original Tray. 

The composer owned two dogs, Tray and Calamity, but only 
one achieved posthumous fame. Calamity apparently was not a go- 
getter, munched his bones, bayed at the moon and died unsung, never 
agitating a muse in his lifetime. The pride of the Foster household was 
a setter and long dead, naturally; and one day Ford agents came up 
with a gentle one of the breed who was glad to work at Greenfield 
and pretend he was the Pittsburgh Tray. He lived out his span 
happily beside Greenfield's version of the Suwanee River, despite a 
single challengeable flaw. 



CURIOSITY SHOP 187 

Ford found a tang in carrots many people missed, but even at 
the height of his master's passion, you could find a discarded ring of 
them around Tray's plate, where he pushed them in his resentment. 
Wherever a billionaire sits may be the head of the table, but it wasn't 
so in the setter's book. To the end he snubbed anyone who suggested 
he ought to eat a few carrots for the sake of politeness and security 
reasons, if no more. 

It was in the quiet of late evening, alone, that Ford enjoyed the 
Foster cottage most. He could look from one window and see the home 
of Noah Webster in the twilight, from another that of Luther Bur- 
bank. Across the way was his own Suwanee with a side-wheeler of the 
same name which foundered in the floods on the night Ford died. The 
Suwanee of Foster rises in the South Georgia marshes and empties 
into the Gulf; the private Suwanee of Ford flows in a circle. Its water 
spills in over a water wheel from a tributary of the Detroit River, and 
he often steamed up his ancient bark and took village children cruising 
round and round in its slow eddies. 

One night I found him there. Some news dispatch involving him 
had come over the wires in the afternoon and he said he'd be glad to 
hear of any later additional facts. 

"Call me at the house if you hear anything tonight,'* he re 
quested, and said if he wasn't there he'd probably be at the Foster cot 
tage. He'd probably be working the Swiss music box whose small bells 
played Suwanee, 

The message came over the wires but his home said he wasn't 
there and I drove to Greenfield and walked up the village road past a 
guard, who apparendy had been forewarned. When I gave my name 
he waved me along. 

"The boss is up at the Foster cottage, all right," he said. 

Without knocking, I opened the door and went in. The man 
hunched over the organ did not hear me and did not turn around. 
Alone with himself, he was picking out with one finger the melody of 
Old Fol^s at Home, with a concentration that excluded all the motor* 
cars and ships at sea, the planes in the sky that bore his name, and the 
assembly lines everywhere making bread and butter for him and 
thousands of men he'd never know. 

His affection for the songs of Foster got him into some early 
trouble. He went all out for starting the day with a song. He advocated 



i88 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

it in interviews in musical journals. He practiced it by joining in the 
children's choruses in early-morning chapel. But a venture in evensong 
did not fare so well When he decided to throw a dam across the Rouge 
on his estate many years back, he told the contractor he'd like an all- 
colored crew. 

"Do you suppose you can do that?" he asked. 

The builder said discipline was better maintained in his opinion 
with a mixed crew but he guessed he could arrange it, if that was what 
was wanted. 

"Have them bring out their musical instruments," added Ford. 
When the forty Negro pick-and-shovel boys arrived they brought, 
as ordered, a heterogeneous collection of banjos, mouth-organs, jewV 
harps, even a battered violin. They also brought Old Blacf^ Joe and 
Kentuc'ky Home right to his riverbank, and they constituted a fine 
harmonizing chorus. 

Workers who did not go home at night slept in a frame farm 
house on the property. Sometimes during the day Ford would call off 
work on the dam and ask them to sing, and he would sprawl on the 
bank while out on the concrete the boys would obediently drop what 
they might be doing and give with Foster songs and others that Ford 
never had heard before. 

Some evenings he would drive out from town and sit in the 
farmhouse to enjoy the choral work until late in the night. Occasionally 
he would take out a special treat of melons or steaks. The crew found 
it much more interesting than sinking a shovel in a river bed or shor 
ing up a bank. They got to banking their pay with him. 

But one night the contractor got a four-alarm telephone call. He 
had better come right away. There had been a fight. One Negro had 
fired an axe at another in a brawl, and it had missed the man at whom 
it was flung and struck a Ford engineer, one of the few white men on 
the job. The injury was not serious but the fracas scared Ford, who had 
been an eyewitness. 

"Close down the job for two weeks, until someone gets a little 
sense;" he told the contractor, reluctantly. 

The honeymoon was over. Future concerts got a blanket cancel 
lation, but he found a new outlet. He pulled the contractor off the dam. 
He wanted to put up feeding stations for birds and he and the dam- 
builder spent a good part of the day looking for locations up and down 



CURIOSITY SHOP 189 

the grassy banks which would be convenient and where the birds 
would be sure to find them. Also, electricity was run to pans all over the 
estate so the water would not freeze and birds could drink from them 
at all seasons. 

The ancient Springfield, Illinois, courthouse where Abraham Lin 
coln practiced law as a stripling faces on the village green, and here 
burns the second perpetual flame. 

When Ford went to get and move it, the main door was gone, 
the windows cracked by winds and the stones of small boys. Time had 
dug scallops in the plaster, but all this could be and was freshene( 
and given almost original newness. The missing door was removed 
from an outhouse to which it had descended, the plaster was taken off, 
boxed, and shipped to Greenfield to be mixed with fresh lime for 
plastering the re-established rooms. 

Seven months after the courthouse had been revived and opened, 
an actor named Miles, who closely resembled the Emancipator, paid 
Greenfield a visit. He had been lecturing on Lincoln throughout the 
country, claimed some relationship to the family and asked if there was 
a chance of meeting Ford. 

"The resemblance to Lincoln is incredible," a wide-eyed execu 
tive informed the motormaker. He said he thought Ford might be in 
terested in meeting the man. Ford thought so, too. The actor regaled 
his host with good anecdotes and it was only after an hour a long 
time for Ford to let a conversation run without having to make a tele 
phone call from which he did not return Ford proposed that the lec 
turer remain as a guest in the village for a week or two. 

"Make your headquarters in the courthouse, Mr. Miles," Ford 
invited. "You'll be able to tell our visitors many things about Mr. 
Lincoln they do not know, and, of course, the children will be de 
lighted, if they're not scared to death." 

The actor strolled over unobserved to the courthouse in the after 
noon with a guide to show the way, arranged his belongings and 
wearily sank into a rocking chair in front of the hearth for a nap before 
going to the inn for dinner. 

There in that corner is the cupboard the rail-splitter fashioned. 
That table is from his Springfield office. Yonder is the theatre chair in 
which he was sitting when the assassin Booth fired his shots. The 
ghosts that people such rooms might well have looked at the dozing 



190 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

actor and asked if they had miscounted time. Here was young Lincoln 
not markedly different from what he was in 1845. 

The burning wood crackled. Quiet settled on the room. The 
sleeper's head fell slightly to one side. When the night watch thrust 
open the door, he stared unbelievingly at the lank figure in the rocker. 
He tried to speak but no words came, and in desperation he banged 
the door and fled down the path. The eternal fire could stay lit or go 
out, if he had to deal with graves reopening. 

"I've seen a ghost/' Joe panted breathlessly to the first person he 
met. "Lincoln's up in the courthouse takin' a snooze." His voice rose 
in shrill fright. His heart pounded and he ducked into Sam Lamiefe's 
tintype shop for refuge and companionship and hysterically repeated 
the alarm that Lincoln was at large. He slumped into one of Sam's 
chairs and wiped his forehead. 

"They can have my badge!" he said, and slapped it on the coun 
ter to prove he was not fooling. 

Sam stepped out to the sidewalk and looked skeptically up the 
road to the courthouse, but it seemed no different or more dangerous 
than it normally was. * 

"It's your stomach," he told Joe coldly, but the watchman only 
stared back bleakly. 

It took hours to quiet Joe and villagers for days would meet and 
twit him about his scare. "How's the ghost makin' out, Joe?" Even, 
Ford gave him a small autographed book of ghost stories, apologizing 
for its omission of the story o Joe and the Lincoln apparition, but 
the watchman never quite recovered and in time quit to work for 
Packard where, somehow he figured, a ghost was less likely to call. 
The third eternal light was from the hand of Edison. It burns low 
beneath the boiler in the Menlo Park laboratory where, with a world 
tuned to its radios, the accouchement of die first incandescent bulb was 
reenacted in 1929. 

Edison sat on the same chair, his assistant Francis Johl on the 
same step-ladder, operating the mercury, and performed a second time 
for a new generation those final experimental steps by which man 
graduated from the unsure flicker of wick and tallow. 

Here Edison had invented the carbon telephone transmitter. 
Here came into being the phonograph. Here Edison had toiled on fuses 
and switches, lamp sockets and what many regarded as the first practi- 



CURIOSITY SHOP 191 

cal motion picture camera. For ten years here he had applied a bound 
less inqulsltiveness to many things then secret. 

Menlo Park and most of its recovered appurtenances were moved 
to Greenfield from New Jersey and reconstructed, even to a hickory 
stump by which the building stood, and several carloads of red clay on 
which it rested. Ford himself found and patched the original rnortar 
and pestle. 

The Pennsylvania Railroad was an involuntary contributor of 
f 1,400 to this realism. The Department of Agriculture charged that in 
shipping an acre of ground the railroad did not treat the soil chemi 
cally. 

"It dumped on Michigan," argued government lawyers, with no 
soul for historical similitude, "the larvae of enough Japanese and 
Asiatic beetles to have done a great deal of havoc if they had not been 
arrested in time." 

The railroad wept softly on its counsel's shoulder but eventually 
agreed to a penalty of $100 on each of fourteen counts. 

Ford restored the setting of Edison's early victories with such 
fidelity that Edison himself had only one fault to find when he saw it 
again. 

"Henry," the Menlo patriarch said, after an appreciative look 
.about, "this is 99% per cent what it used to be." His eyes made the 
round of the room again. "It would be perfect," he decided, "but for 
one thing." 

Ford, depressed, asked where he had fallen down. 

"It's too damned clean," Edison chuckled. 

Ford had no flame to burn in perpetuity in the seventeenth cen 
tury shepherd's cottage he took apart in the Cotswold Hills of War 
wickshire and shipped, in numbered pieces, so the jigsaw could be put 
together without trouble when the cottage took out American citizen 
ship papers, but he astonished the king's stone masons brought from 
England to reassemble the ancient dwelling. 

The house from the Western Midlands and its encircling shrub 
bery were photographed in all their various arrangements, the wood 
and stone stowed in a ship hold and, six months later, the cottage 500 
tons of it was in new position as a Greenfield unit. To all appearances 
it looked as it had in its native sheep country, except for landscap 
ing. 



192 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Ford called at the cottage to say he was wholly pleased by the 
craftmanshlp of the three British masons. 

"Did you fellows get a good look at New York when you 
landed?" he asked them. 

The spokesman said they had not had time. There was, he knew, 
that trouble at immigration. Admission had been granted only when 
Ford pledged the Department of Labor the stone masons would go 
home as soon as the job was finished. 

"Well, you break off here," Ford said, "and go down there for 
a week or so. Have a holiday as our guests." He said they had done 
good work. 

They thanked him and the four stood in front of the cottage and 
scrutinized it closely. 

"Do you think it looks the same?" he inquired. 

Well, they weren't sure. Two shook their heads. One said it 
wasn't green enough. The other said it certainly needed the trees and 
grass and bushes. 

"Well, another month or two and they'll be in," consoled a 
third. "Then I swear you won't be able to tell the difference." 

"Yes, a month or two," agreed Ford. 

Before they returned from New York, six days later, Ford had 
thrown in his own landscapemen. Black earth was unloaded at the site,, 
sod put in. Photographs of the original plant life were followed 
minutely. Trees were planted. Bushes went in. The interior took on 
livability with -trestle table, beds, fireside settee, hutch table and a 
Bible chair with bun feet. The lights came on. The green that had 
been missing deepened. The stone masons walked in on a fait 
accompli. 

"Now it's the same," said the astounded first. 

"So 'elp me 'Arry!". exclaimed the second. 

"Gor blimey!" softly muttered the third. 

Ford didn't know what two-thirds of it meant but he was con 
tent with his surprise party. The Cotswold cottage, in its finished green- 
setting, was detail for detail the same as when the masons tore it down 
for its 4,ooo-mile sea voyage. It required only one more touch. One of 
the masons recalled there was a Newfoundland dog a black New 
foundland. 

The motormaker would have got the original, of course, but the 



CURIOSITY SHOP 193 

masons said lie undoubtedly adored the king and did not like boats 
and probably, being on the supercilious side, would object to packing 
his redheart lunch and trotting down to Ford's place every morning 
with a metal tag to show he was a regular automobile worker. His life 
in the hills had been too free for that. 

A substitute from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., proved a bit of a devil. 
He was three weeks old when he came to be a Cotswold sentry. He 
slept in the hay in the barn, refused to let other village dogs approach 
the cottage, and grew huge enough to insist upon it. 

The Newfoundland heeled only for the man who nursed him to 
bigness Gus Munchow, who transformed the land about the old 
stone cottage into a fine English garden. When Gus was taken to a 
hospital, the dog pined and would not eat. Ford was notified and 
drove over. 

The watchman at the house said the dog undoubtedly was griev 
ing for the sick master. 

"Well, pile him into the car," Ford directed. The animal was 
hoisted to a seat and rode in state to the hospital. He padded obediendy 
into the elevator and up to Munchow's room. The reunion was the 
tonic. It was all they could do to persuade the Newfoundland not to 
bed down permanently and to get back in the car, after giving Gus 
some fine wet licks and a couple of heavy slaps that nearly put the 
patient back into a coma, but once back at the cottage he went promptly 
to his platter to make up for lost time and then to the gate to see that 
no coach dog had taken advantage of his absence. He had located Gus; 
from now on he'd take care of the place as Gus would expect him 
to do. 

The Ford collection never ceased growing. He had the largest 
and smallest incandescent lamps in the world, the one a 36-pounder, 
the other no bigger than' a kernel of wheat; a section. of every cable 
laid across the Atlantic, a sulky which Nancy Hanks drew; an opera 
coach Lucky Baldwin drove; sombreros and poke bonnets, hay forks 
and treadmills that dogs used to power to ease the labor of plunger 
churns on the farmer's wife. 

As spotless as a Ford engine room, Greenfield always was a bee 
hive of housecleaning, except once when he returned from Georgia 
in advance of expectation. The war had been won, the company was 
making over for peace, tools of battle moved out and those of normal 



*94 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

manufacture in. A woman worker in overalls ran up and slapped her 
glim in goodby on the underbelly o the last bomber and the hum oi 
Willow Run subsided. The company rolled up its sleeves for the com 
petitive race ahead and cut loose of money-losing externals with which 
the senior Ford had regaled himself. 

Somehow in all the maelstrom of conversion no one had paid 
the usual heed to the village until the senior Ford walked into the 
square one morning and looked about with affronted eye. He was 
thunderstruck by a spot or two which to him gave the hamlet an air 
of abandonment, and if there was any idea that grandfather was 
inactive he disabused all hands. He let out some searing expletives 
of the kind that did not appear in sedate profiles of the "real" Henry 
Ford. 

"Get over here!" he commanded. "This place is a mess." 

No one fooled with an order like that. He hardly had the words 
out before maintenance gangs poured up the road with brushes and 
brooms and ladders and paint and fly-swatters to work under his vig 
orous vigil. 

There were times you thought the village a monster flat of stage 
scenery put up each morning and taken down at night. No eaves trough 
hung by a rusted strip, no shutter swung in the wind, no faucet dripped 
or chair teetered on a loose leg. Children came to class in the village 
schools. In the church on the common people worshipped and couples 
wed. Men did their village chores as their prototypes did them a cen 
tury or two before. 

The old stage coach under his rejuvenating hand became a new 
one fit again for a run through Death Valley. The debilitated 999 in 
which he had lowered the automobile record for a mile on ice in 1904 
to 39 2/5 seconds became again a dashing wonder of a racing car 
champing to do it over again. 

Even Ford failed to get a completely animated museum. The 
plush rope and the glass cabinet he could not escape. Some miracle man 
still had to find a way to present the bygone times in shirt sleeves and 
on wash day instead of always in Sunday waistcoat. 

One still did not know how the coach looked mud-spattered and 
passengers in panic after a brush with road agents. The shiny 999 of 
the museum still did not tell the whole story of the whipping wind, the 
banked snow that threw the record maker Ford just as he finished, the 



CURIOSITY SHOP 195 

excitement as the three dockers agreed he had bettered the world's 
mark by seven seconds. 

But many of the clues were there in Greenfield to how man in 
America, eternally dissatisfied with "what he had, tried for 250 years 
to improve his lot, never content at any stage with what he attained 
and always pressing toward some new fancy of Eden he was not quite 
clear about. 



"Ten poor men sleep in peace 
on one straw heap, as Saadi 
sings, lut the immensest em- 
fire is too narrow for two 
fcngs."-W. R. Alger. 



CHAPTER XIV 
EDSEL 



THE ONLY child of Henry Ford was not a chip off the old 
block, and in many ways was the antithesis of his father. 
He left the applause to his sire and he had no wish for a 
seat in the show window, which was just as well, for, while 
the late Edsel Bryant Ford wore the title of president o Ford Motor 
Company for a quarter century, his forebear never squeezed over to 
make the son's seat entirely comfortable. When the senior Ford handed 
over the royal pen he broke the nib and it never wrote as well as one 
had a right to expect. There never was any question who was boss or 
whose word was law. 

The egocentric creator of the Tin Lizzie believed nothing could 
be finer than if he made his son into a reasonable facsimile of himself 
but he couldn't pull it off although some commentators had them alike 
as two peas. They had dissimilar characteristics and philosophies for 
which a difference in their generations and an unlikeness in natures 
were responsible. 

The elder Ford was an industrial autocrat, the younger a demo 
crat. One was gentle and liked people, made friends and held them; 
the other could be as hard as his forgings and distrusted friendship as 
a general proposition. He allowed himself few. It would have been a 
unatter for more surprise if the motormaker had not been hardened 
;by his climb to the mountain-top, for along the twisting path he had 
met a variety of gentlemen who wished him down a crevasse aad 
would have been delighted to assist in the fall. He wanted Edsel, his 

196 



EDSEL 197 

son, to believe that nine times in ten he would find a wolf in the bed 
instead of grandma. His son did not think it was so. He wanted to 
make Edsel something he was not a bellicose type. 

The father was quick and impetuous and operated on hunches. 
The son was never precipitous. He thought things out and tried to 
develop decisions by logical processes. Sometimes he got the wrong 
answers but some of his father's hunches were weak hand-rails also* 
The senior Ford made unpublicized errors and some of them were 
blingers, except that when he made them he passed them off as lessons 
learned. 

Edsel was a good listener; Henry listened closest to words with 
which he agreed. The father was an extreme extrovert and always 
had his eye on the center ring. He was the spectacular dot on the 
swaying girder 40 stories up. The son was content to pridefully watch 
the maneuvers and efface himself. 

The reactions of Edsel Ford were those of the normal human 
being those of the father dramatic and often violent. He was forever 
the actor. 

A farmer who had business with the late William B. Mayo, chief 
engineer, sat down to wait when told Mayo was somewhere about the 
building but would be back shortly. The senior Ford walked in. 

"Will I hunt up Mr. Mayo?" asked a secretary. "He's somewhere 
in the laboratory." Then he remembered the visitor, half screened by 
an open door. "Here is a gentleman," the secretary waved his hand in 
the direction of the caller, "who says he met you many years ago, 
Mr. Ford, although he doesn't think you'll remember." 

"Don't tell me. See if I can remember," Ford insisted. The caller 
got up and moved out and shook hands. "Northville, Michigan fair, 
TI years ago, wasn't it," Ford looked for confirmation. The pleased 
visitor nodded and said that was right. "I stole some apples from you." 
Ford grinned and sank into a chair. 

The other man said he could not recall the theft. Ford said he 
had admired the prize apples so much he had pocketed three of them 
when no one was looking. They gossiped about the fair, mutual friends, 
how crops were coming. 

"When you're finished, have Mr. Walker here bring you down 
to my office." Ford got up to go. "I want to show you something." The 
apple-grower said he'd be delighted. Walker said he'd see to it. 



198 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"I want to take you over to the farm," the motormaker boomed 
triumphantly, "and show you the orchard I grew from the seeds of those 
stolen apples.*' 

Whether an orchard of the size Ford showed him could be 
grown from the seeds of three apples puzzled the farmer for a long 
time afterward. He finally told himself it couldn't be done but never 
accused Ford of romancing. He said Mr. Ford undoubtedly had shown 
him the wrong trees. 

Young Ford was appreciative of things done for him and did not 
forget them. He went out of his way not to cause any one pain if it 
could be avoided. The father could be shy *knd unassertive- courtesy 
personified and hit to the jaw five minutes later. Edsel had a temper 
but it was under control. The only evidence of anger was a taut neck 
muscle, a thinning of the lips. When crossed his father was infuriated 
and made no effort to conceal it. One could predict with reasonable 
accuracy how the son would react, but the senior Ford usually did or 
said exactly opposite to what one guessed he would. 

The industry was not a little afraid of what he would do and 
some members of the family were no less apprehensive. He cast an 
extraordinarily long shadow. A charming in-law who always was ready 
to fill in society editors on coming events telephoned an editor one 
morning and asked if this time the paper would do her a favor. The 
editor said she'd be delighted. 

"I thought you might get wind of this and print it. I wish you 
wouldn't." The distressed lady on the telephone hesitated over her 
wording a moment. "We'll be in the soup for sure if it gets out that 
we ... gave ... a ... cocktail party . . . yesterday!" 

The editor said yes, she knew Mr. Ford's aridity, and made a note 
to spike anything on that soiree that might come in from other sources 
and to forget who was there. 

When the senior grandson was prepping for Yale, two class 
mates decided on a heady if no new adventure they'd run away and 
ship before the mast or something. They tried to inveigle Henry 
Ford II into the odyssey and the idea first attracted him as the three 
plotted in a Hotchkiss room. 

"I'd like to but I just can't," the motormaker 's grandson finally 
made his hard decision. < Why, my grandfather would get out the 
militia!" 



EDSEL 



199 



He decided he could not stomach the militia marching up a 
gangplank and taking him off, probably in irons, to a dungeon grandpa 
could cook up and probably have finished in a half hour. 

Henry Ford had no interest in the popular diversions of man 
kind. He raced cars in his younger days but he did so because he re 
garded it a good way to advertise his product. When his son was 
growing up, Ford was busy making a million into two, two into four, 
four into eight, and one never could picture him in those days taking 
time or having time to whisper conspiratorially to a restless boy. "I 
know a brook that reeks of trout, Son. How about you and I being 
off tonight with a pup-tent and ready for them in the morning?" 

He came home delightfully tired from the plant and hardly 
could wait to return next day and get as delightfully tired all over 
again watching his magic beanstalk grow. His hunting was for ways 
to make the car better, the price lower, the miles of thumping machines 
as prolific as a rabbit. He was too busy with his heroic dream to spend 
time on a boy's. 

The background may account for the fact that when Edsel 
matured, he took a sportsman's interest in sports. He golfed, skied, 
boated, played tennis, ran the yacht to the Thames and Hudson regatta 
days. He and his wife knew about and could talk intelligently of the 
baseball pennant races, how well some favorite player was hitting, had 
their own riding horses on the farm, were often at the football games, 
and occasionally at horse races. 

I recall the junior Mrs. Ford exhibiting as much excitement one 
afternoon as the horses pounded down the stretch as if the whole Ford 
fortune was riding on the result. She was very pretty and flushed and 
exultant, I remember, as the horse she had bet landed home by a 
whisker, a man in the party said, "That's your horse, isn't it, Eleanor?" 
She jubilantly waved a ticket. 

"And I had $5 on him," she responded gleefully. 

There are no pictures extant of Henry Ford and the boy Edsel 
putting out in a punt with a can of bait and two bamboos or beating 
their fists together as Ty Cobb stole home; there are plenty of them 
sitting with feigned exuberance in the seat of the first car as it was 
rolled out each anniversary, canned shots of Henry and son examining 
a stamping machine, regularly timed pictures of them standing by the 
ten-millionth Model T, the twelve-millionth, the fifteen-millionth, a 



200 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

jeep, a tank, a bomber, pretending an allveness for the photographer 
over an engine as if it was the first they had seen and couldn't believe 
their eyes, but there are no pictures of Henry and Edsel Ford at un 
restrained play, holding up a defeated tuna or pounding each other 
on the back as some Bronco Nagurski crossed the goal line. 

But there were plenty of Edsel and Henry II at the World Series, 
of Edsel and Benson straining to see how the crews were making out 
as they knifed toward the finish buoys, of Edsel and sons crouched 
forward to see if the wrestler's shoulders in the ring overhead were 
both squarely pinned, pictures of Edsel and daughter, Josephine, at 
the horse show, of father and Billy watching Tilden rear back and 
take a match in straight sets. 

The motorrnaker said books mussed up his mind but he got his 
idea of a world parliament from Tennyson, had one of the great col 
lections of Dickens and quoted right and left from Ralph Waldo Emer 
son. Edsel waded through business publications, art journals, the slick 
magazines, trade papers, enjoyed New Yorker cartoons while his father 
fretted over Orphan Annie, and mixed new books judiciously with 
classics. 

I remember a discussion of Benvenuto Cellini in which Edsel left 
everyone far behind. The others had read Cellini as a class-room require 
ment and forgotten what they had collegiately gotten perforce. Ford's 
son felt strongly over the fact that he had not attended a university and 
one got the impression of a planned effort to make up for what he had 
lost. The belated opening of doors enabled him to catch up with and 
pass many old-tie associates whom he privately envied for things he 
thought they knew but which often they had long forgotten. Museum 
directors found him intelligently authoritative on sculpture and ancient 
art techniques. Starting late he wound up fresh on cultural titillations 
on which early starters had gone stale. 

Attention embarrassed him. He rarely spoke of himself. When 
he did speak it was usually of the company, whereas his father talked 
on everything and anything, from the proper length of women's skirts 
and fingernails to what kind of life was probably before man after 
death. Shy, Edsel rented a cottage during the San Diego, Calif., fair 
and considered it a pleasant triumph that he managed to visit the 
exposition nineteen times without being recognized. 

A guard would not let him into his World's Fair building 



EDSEL 201 

when he was waiting for a company executive to lock up for the night. 
Instead of identifying himself, he asked the sentinel to step over to the 
office with him so that he could be vouched for. 

When the Duke of Windsor, as Prince of Wales, was entertained 
at his home, he delivered the royal Edward to a private club for 
luncheon but refused to enter himself. "Thanks . . . thanks, greatly,** 
he said hastily, "but here it's father's party." He almost ran. 

A Washington press photographer taking an outdoor shot of a 
Senate committee with which Edsel had been visiting did not know 
who he was and waved him out of focus. "Bud, would you mind this 
is just for big shots?" 

Unceremoniously he put over one $5,000,000 loan while taking 
a shower at Detroit's Racquet Club. In the next stall was William 
Nagel, city controller, and the two dealt over the dividing panel. 

"Do you want to make some money?" the controller began it. 

Edsel asked what his neighbor had in mind. Would Mr. Ford 
loan the city of Detroit five million dollars? 

"Sounds a good risk," piped the voice on the other side of the 
slate. "Why me, though? What's the idea?" Nagel said the idea was 
that New York was trying to sandbag the municipality for $ l / 2 per cent 
interest and he thought the rate outrageous. Edsel turned off his faucet. 
"So do I," he agreed. "Detroit's a better prospect than that." As they 
walked together back to the lockers he said to see him next day. 

"How does 4 per cent strike you?" he asked when they sat down 
to his desk as scheduled. The controller said that rate was more like it. 
"You can plan on it then I'll take it up with the boys and they'll get 
the money together." The deal was wrapped up in five minutes. 

Edsel Ford was a personality in his own right but he was more 
or less overlooked and submerged because his father was a more elec 
tric and involved study. He hated pushy people, showoflfs, his father's 
attack on Jews, brass-knuckle labor relations. He could be argued with 
and had an abiding sense of equity. He was for giving the public other 
paint than black. He was out of sympathy with his father's fight with 
NRA in the depression years. The government, in an economic ex 
tremity, asked co-operation; the government should have it, he argued, 
times being what they were. 

His interest was not in engineering but in styling in the type 
of car as it would affect sales and the market; his father's concern was 



202 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

with what made the automobile run. The trade credited the son, not 
the father, with the stream-lining of Lincoln and Ford models and it 
was only after EdsePs appearance in a major role that radio programs, 
progressive sales campaigns and the use of practically every form of 
advertising media appeared in the Ford picture. 

He got his father to buy a small airplane company with which 
the Fords made a beginning in plane-building, and it was the younger 
Ford who mobilized the engineers and technicians, with Charles Soren- 
sen, the production chief, and set them to developing a conveyor sys 
tem for mass production of interchangeable-part bombers in World 
War II. 

When Henry Ford drove up in his two-cylinder car, the one with 
the bicycle wheels and tiller, to take lo-y ear-old Edsel home from a 
birthday party at a neighbor's home in 1903 his son was jubilant. The 
hostess had made a caramel cake for the boys she had invited to cele 
brate the day with her son and she baked into it seven pennies and a 
dime. A survivor of the orgy still nurses 45 years later a slight grudge 
over what happened. "Wouldn't you know," he says nowadays, en 
viously, whenever he repeats the story, "that Edsel would get the cake 
with the ten-cent piece in it?" 

The event is more firmly fixed in the brooding man's mind by 
what the senior Ford said to his uncle and his uncle said to Ford while 
the boys, the party ended, were getting their reefers and rubbers from 
an upstairs room. 

"I really have this engine licked, Charlie," Ford had confided. 
"If you come in on the ground floor you'll make yourself some money." 

Uncle Charlie said he just couldn't do it. Money wasn't too 
plentiful. He had just sunk his ready cash in a building lot on a nearby 
street and he was trying to negotiate a bank loan so he could build. He 
did not say, as he might have, that he was not at all enraptured by 
Henry's box on bike wheels which stood at the moment in front of 
the house looking anything but a harbinger of revolution. Henry, with 
Charlie's refusal, and Edsel, with his party booty, chugged away. 

"I'm glad you didn't put money into Henry's silly buggy," said 
Charlie's wife, when the last child had gone. Charlie invested money 
instead in another company which blew up in his face unhappily, 
the same year Ford Motor Company declared a 1900 per cent dividend 
but what Charlie's wife said then is not a matter of record. 



EDSEL 203 

When Edsel was 21 he received an even prettier prize. This time 
the cake contained $1,000,000. On that day the senior Ford strode into 
a Detroit bank with his son and into the president's office. 

"Bill, I have a million in gold here," he reminded the official. 
"This is EdseFs twenty-first birthday and I want him to have it." 

Edsel, with reasonable curiosity, stumbled down to the vault just 
to see what that amount in gold looked like. He was accustomed to 
large sums but hardly that kind of money. Then he drove to the plant 
and recalled in later years making more errors the rest of the day than 
he ever did before or after. 

An excusable assumption from the gift of a million and the dime 
in the cake would be that the younger Ford had in his wealth an 
unfailing luck-piece which protected him from the slings of fortune. 
Instead, the fates seemed often in collusion to disprove by his case any 
belief that grief can be bought off. He lived with frustration and humili 
ation a good bit of the time. 

Orders he gave were countermanded and often ignored. Plans 
he made were vetoed. Men he fired did not stay fired, others to whom 
he was devoted and who were devoted to him mysteriously vanished 
from his side. The father appointed himself sole referee. Few wholly 
trusted associates of the younger man were able to dissuade the elder 
Ford of his certainty that friendship with Edsel had a self-serving 
motive. The senior Ford was a martinet made doubly difficult by the 
fact that no one was surer of his own omniscience. 

When the British were so hard-pressed in 1940 and needed more 
Spitfires if they were to beat off Goring's Luftwaffe, they wanted an 
American supplier to make Merlin Rolls-Royce engines to power their 
best fighter planes. 

Edsel and Sorensen went to Washington and in 12 hours com 
mitted Ford Motor Company to manufacture 9,000 3,000 engines for 
use in the United States and 6,000 for England. 

Two days later Edsel telephoned William S. Knudsen, in Wash 
ington. "Bill," he said, "father won't do it." 

"Aren't you president?" 

"Yes, I am," said Edsel, slowly, "but you know how father is." 
r Knudsen flew to Detroit, walked in on Edsel and Sorensen. 
When the elder Ford came in the door he began to crackle from the 
start. 



204 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"You're all right, William; 5 he said to Knudsen, "but you're in 
with a bad crowd down there." 

Knudsen blinked at the left-handed compliment. 

"You've got a Rolls-Royce job in here and I want you to get it 
out of here," Ford said. He offered to make all 9,000 engines under con 
tract for the American government but he would not make any for 
England, a belligerent. Ford acceptance of the Rolls-Royce contract 
already had been announced. 

Knudsen said, "There'll be a stink over this." Ford shrugged. 
The deal stayed off. He brushed off EdsePs agreement as if it had not 
been made. Besides, he couldn't see the Rolls as a production item. 

To some the severe supervision was a mere toughening by 
which Ford was only trying to train his son for survival. Others said 
Ford looked upon his only son as a guinea pig. I asked a grizzled in 
dustrial warrior, always high in Ford's esteem and now retired, to de 
scribe Ford's affection for his only son, and he turned to a shelf and 
got down a Bible. He put his finger without comment on a text that 
read, "And it came to pass that God did tempt Abraham and said unto 
Hm, . . . Take now thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get 
thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering 
upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.' " 

In a plant where the overweening ambition was to be No. i with 
the senior Ford, the general plan of contesting pressure groups was 
to try to cut the ground from under anyone who seemed to be getting 
an inside track, and it is said the wrestling groups were undaunted 
by the fact that Edsel happened to be a Ford. Keeping on the soft side 
of the elder Ford, when a soft side was to be found, was what counted 
The junior Ford never considered himself important or gave any sign 
of it if he did. Occasionally one got an idea that he did not even con 
sider the Ford company important to the point where its dissolution 
meant the finish of the world, but if he thought so he never said so. 
Periodically he was suspected of harboring the thought he might live 
more satisfactorily if on getting up some morning he found himself 
foot-loose and able to range freely and not have to head out for the 
Rouge and the clangorous leagues of machines, each stoically doing its 
.stint as it had the day before and would days without cease. 

He was a princeling whose part was written for him. It may 
have been the one he would have chosen if be ever had a choice, but 



EDSEL 205 

choice was one thing he did not have. He was born to a genius who 
passed on to him a factory and a fortune regarded as the mightiest in 
the world. 

The son was wholly conscious who built the wonder. It was his 
father's business > reared block by block, belt by belt. The interminable 
movement of cars off final assembly, the sprawling plant banding the 
earth, the net surplus which once struck close to a billion dollars, the 
shifts pouring in and out, were his father's doing, not his. 

The year he was born, 1893, Edsel Ford heard the first explosion 
of gas that was to make virtually every man his own engineer. It 
came from the kitchen where his father and mother were bent over a 
sink tinkering with the first engine. As a youngster he rode on his 
mother's lap in the first car until his father built him a special seat. 
At 12 he would climb on a stool in the plant and lick stamps. At 19 
the factory swallowed him. He was secretary at 22 and president at 26. 
By the time the son was 21 the father was the cherished pet of destiny; 
riding a star-wagon. For the son there were no ham-on-rye days, no 
what-are-we-going-to-do-when-the-rent-comes-round days. 

When William Ford ? County Cork father of Henry, tried to write 
Henry Ford's role for him and said he was crazy to be anything but a 
farmer, Henry politely told William to clear out of his way and he'd 
set his own course. But Edsel was unable, if he ever wished, to match 
such independence and break the hammerlock of a strong parent. 

When Henry measured his father's acres all he could see was a 
mildly prosperous farm entailing a lot of hard work for a modest 
return. When Edsel Ford glanced out the window it was on an in 
comparable colossus, and he had respect both as a son and an academic 
observer for what he saw and for the man who had brought it to 
fruition. 

The struggle could not come out a tie. Henry Ford wanted a 
son in his image, ready for battle without notice. He put indescribable 
obstacles in the younger Ford's road and the purpose was, it was said, 
to make him fight back. Edsel fought back only to a point. He would 
never go to the limit of an ultimatum. On his side, Henry Ford with 
held from the son from first to last the full power with which in the 
end he invested his oldest grandson. By then, Edsel was dead and the 
senior Ford's stamina for warfare was running low. 

Usually at a point in their differences, the son of Henry would 



206 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

follow the course of others surrounding his father. The attitude was: 
"Well, it's his plant. That time before we thought he was nutty but 
he was perfectly right. This new idea does not sound good, but it may 
be just as right." The senior Ford cashed in so many distrusted hunches 
that those who disputed him finally arrived at the belief that his genius 
had no ebb and would last as long as he did. 

When the pressure on the older Ford to do what he did not 
want to do became annoyingly strong he had an unusual method of 
postponing the proposed change. He would do what he was persuaded 
tc do but so badly that the end product would not be practicable. In 
other words he deliberately saw to it in some cases that an experiment 
fizzled, as he said it would, or so it seemed to many of those close 
to him. 

For a dozen years a single litany, and only one, obtained. Mr. 
Ford would justifiably say, "The Model T is the most perfect auto 
mobile in the world" and a convinced round table would say in a certi 
fying chant, "Ay, the most perfect car in the world is a Ford/* and 
go out and sell another million, but in the middle Twenties the response 
grew less hearty and sincere and unanimous. Not without some inner 
boiling, the motormaker noticed that even his son, of all persons, was 
one whose "Ay" was lukewarm. The noon luncheon table became a 
stormy quarter-deck. 

They wanted to get rid of his planetary transmission. They would 
ditch his mechanical brakes. They spoke, in flagrant mutiny, of paint 
ing the car some other color than black. Ford could not believe his 
ears. As they jangled there was not a passable road in the world not 
being traversed by his cars. What sort of revolution was this? He 
would be hard-shelled while pretending otherwise. A farseeing and 
brilliant executive found himself outside the gates for advancing the 
theory that this was the best the company could do in the way of a car 
and in putting the same idea, Henry Ford was convinced, into Edsel's 
mind. 

Edsel wanted a Six, but when his father could be brought to ad 
mit that any engine at all could hold a candle to the Tin Lizzie's, he still 
would not subscribe to a Six because he said it could not be balanced. 
Chevrolet was winning a firm toehold with one and Plymouth had 
come into prominence on the performance of a Six. Ford engineers said 
with dangerous stoutness that of course a Six was inherently in balance. 



EDSEL 207 

Ford said it wasn't and he didn't want any. The tilting continued, none 
theless. 

Now as to an Eight, the weaving Mr. Ford said when the 
pressure for change grew so it was not easy to brush aside well, he 
did have an idea for an Eight and it might be the answer. He'd see. 

He did? He would? Grudgingly he seemed to give in and ela 
tion was general. And it could be prettied with something besides black 
paint? Why not! "Very well," he said, "I'll get on with it." On the 
surface it rated with historic surrenders a decision to end a model 
which had sold millions and filled high the company's money chests. 
The end of an epoch? It was nothing of the kind. 

The experimental engine he turned out in 1923 was an eight- 
cylinder, X-type, with four sparkplugs up and four down in a position 
where there was very little water and dirt on the road they missed. 
Several were made. None of the engineers thought it was any good. 
Neither possibly did Mr. Ford, privately, for it never went into pro 
duction. What it did was quiet critics in the ranks for a spell and 
gave Ford some peace while it was being put together. 

Thirteen years elapsed before son Edsel won his campaign for a 
Six. The company had put one out in 1909. It was not until 1936 that 
his father gave in and built another. In getting ready for 1937 models 
Edsel called six leading dealers to the Rouge. Business was off he 
wanted a frank opinion from them of what additions to the line would 
regain lost ground. 

The dealers were a united front. A Six was needed on the floor 
beside the Eight because competitors had sold a great number of people 
on the virtues of a Six. The senior Ford arrived in the midst of the 
meeting and merely listened. He did not say anything aloud in response 
to the one-sided sentiment but going out he whispered his belated sur 
render in his son's ear. 

"If the Six is what they want, give it to them!" he stooped and 
instructed. 

He started the designing of a six-cylinder engine next day. He 
exhibited interest for a short time but never became enthusiastic. De 
rogatory remarks drifted back from the front office to where the work 
was advancing and were attributed to him. The Six went into produc 
tion, but he never permitted it to be pushed where it might displace 
the Eight. 



208 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

He could be meek one moment and bash a head the next. When 
lie was coming up to his seventy-eighth birthday, a press friend asked 
Mm if he would mind setting down five or ten rules to guide young 
fellows going into business. 

"I'm not a business man." He was unaccountably humble. "I 
never have been one. I've just been a very lucky man. I had what the 
people wanted and Mrs. Ford." 

But another year, when he listened to some sales managers 
grumble that the company was not putting out enough models, he 
finally rose and lectured them: "So far as I can see the only trouble 
with Ford cars is that we cannot make them fast enough." Then he 
walked out of a meeting that had been completely silenced. 

The son fought grimly for years the objection of his father to 
installation of a thermostat as standard equipment and was nervous 
over the car's mechanical brakes. He wanted hydraulics. The motor- 
maker said no, and in both cases the reason was a tendency to condemn 
forever any device that once went wrong. 

Shortly after the Lincoln Motor Car Company was acquired in 
1921 the senior Ford drove into the country. The big car had a shutter 
in front of the radiator operated by thermostat. When the engine 
warmed, the thermostat opened the shutter; when it was cold, the 
process was reversed. The instrument broke, the shutters would not 
open and the engine overheated. His chauffeur stopped near a corn 
field and Ford hopped a fence. He was back with a corncob. 

"Wedge it open with this/' he proposed. 

When he got back to Dearborn someone asked him if corncobs 
had become standard Lincoln equipment. The quip did not sit well. 
He looked venomously at the humble corncob. "Thermostats are 
crumby" was his verdict. He despised them for years because of the 
single breakdown. 

The younger Ford could not persuade him to accept hydraulic 
brakes because he was afraid the rubber hose lines would deteriorate 
and let out the fluid, and he was indifferent to the fact that beginning 
in 1924 Chrysler had apparently proved the opposite. It was not until 
1938 he gave in. Another breakdown cemented his opposition. 

Without his father's knowledge a few years before and in the 
hope of junking the old-time mechanical brakes for good, Edsel in 
stalled hydraulics on ten experimental cars, and they tested splendidly. 



EDSEL 209 

They were parked near the engineering building, awaiting a propitious 
hour, and one morning the chief engineer accosted the senior Ford and 
said there was something outside he wished he'd try but did not tell 
what it was. A driver picked a car at random from the ten. 

"Drive it, will you, Mr. Ford?" the engineer pointed to the seat 
behind the wheel. 

The motormaker wheeled off. Edsel smiled in satisfaction at an 
upstairs window. Here to him was the successful end of his long con 
test to get rid of a braking system which never had satisfied him any 
too well however much it pleased his father. 

A few miles away, however, the elder Ford had just tried to slow 
the experimental car, and what happened was what he always said 
would. A hose broke, the fluid leaked, and the brakes would not work. 
He got out of the car disgustedly and walked away. The incident 
firmed his conviction xhat hydraulics were no good and the breakdown 
postponed their adoption by the company for several more years. 

"Ten cars, and we'd pick that one," Edsel said morosely after 
wards. The other nine ran for years without mishap or any difficulty 
with the rubber connections. Father Ford told Edsel later he would 
compromise, however. "I have," he announced, "an idea for an improved 
mechanical brake." The whole question of brakes was back where it 
started. 

It always seemed a contradiction in Ford that while he would 
avidly pursue the new at times and urge men toward the undiscovered, 
he was invulnerable to some proven ideas. He got busy at once, however, 
on his "improvement." He wanted, he said, a solid cross shaft with 
operating levers to the brakes on the outer ends. Then a rod was 
to run directly back from the pedal to another lever on the crank 
shaft. 

It did not work, engineers said afterwards, because a long shaft 
has a lot of windup in it, resulting in a mushy and unequalized brake, 
but the experiment was a major spectacle. The magnate got the idea 
that one of his head men working on it was opposed to the whole propo 
sition and was sabotaging it. He packed the suspected one off to Europe. 
When the traveler returned he found his assistant on the verge of a 
collapse from trying to make the brake function the way Ford insisted. 
The new models went into production with mechanical brakes and 
without the cross shaft There were some who suspected Ford knew 



210 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

his formula wouldn't work and that again the whole scheme was simply 
another delaying action. 

Henry Ford's son neutralized his father's indifference in the field 
of aesthetics. Appointed chairman of Detroit's art commission the 
younger Ford had meager knowledge of the world of art and decided 
to learn. Some Ford executive always was trudging back to school to 
hone up for an unfamiliar task at Dearborn and Edsel did not hesitate 
to do the same. 

Henry Ford asked a staff member one day what he knew about 
wireless. The subordinate admitted he knew nothing but what he had 
read in the newspapers. 

"Well, it's about time you learned," Ford said flatly. "Make up 
one of those wireless receiving outfits for me." 

That night the subordinate enrolled in a technical school where 
a class was being instructed in wireless operations on the Great Lakes, 
and out of this grew the Ford broadcasting station WWI which was to 
link company properties from the coal and iron of the upper peninsula 
of Michigan to the far-ranging fleet and the rubber plantation on the 
Tapajos. 

With the administration of civic art affairs before him Edsel 
arranged with Dr. William H. Valentiner, institute director, to or 
ganize a seminar and he and his equally interested wife attended 
class twice a week for grounding. They sailed then for Europe with the 
director and browsed in continental galleries to see if what they had 
learned had sharpened their critical judgment. 

His gifts to the Detroit institute totaled $600,000 a Corot, the 
coat of arms of a Florentine family done by Donatello, a Verrocchio and 
a Titian, a St. John by Andre del Castagnio and several examples 
of various Dutch schools; two works of Fra Angelico from the gallery 
of the Duke of Hamilton, a marble by the fourteenth-century Nino 
Pisano, a small gilt bronze out of the Sarre collection in Berlin, some 
27 panels done by Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist; an iron lion's 
head of the Tang dynasty, Pierre Renoir's "Cup of Chocolate," first 
hung in Paris in 1879, a Virgin of Giovanni Battista, Flemish tapestries 
and Persian silk rugs, one a companion piece of the best in the cele 
brated Altman collection in the Metropolitan. 

Police found a rope dangling from an upper window of the 
museum one morning, a $28,000 marble bust abandoned on the side- 



EDSEL 211 

walk, and the Ford-Persian rug o gold and silver pheasants gone. 
On a third floor landing was a painting by Frans Hals which also had 
been ready for lowering but had been left behind by the thief in his 
unaccountable haste. On the stone flagging below was a single clue 
a torn chamois glove. 

A few hours later the police walked in on a 29-year-old Canadian 
in a Detroit hotel room who was salving hands torn by the friction 
of descending by rope from the upper floor of the institute. The glove, 
the only bit of evidence, bore a cleaner's mark and the hieroglyphics 
led to identification through a charge account. A railroad baggage- 
room yielded the stolen Oriental. The gentleman said he had been 
hypnotized into making off with the animal rug by a millionaire who 
worked with a gang of a dozen, but the millionaire proved fiction 
and the prisoner landed in a psychopathic ward. 

The police held the rug so long that the museum at length de 
manded its return, but when institute emissaries picked it up they 
found a mysterious notch missing from a corner. The clean cut seemed 
to indicate a knife or scissors had been used. Everyone was blandly 
stumped for an explanation, but no one ever since has been able to 
satisfy the museum's suspicion that either (i) the piece was clipped for 
evidence or (2) a police official involved in the capture helped himself 
to a swatch as a choice memento. 

Hard luck jinxed many ventures of the young Ford. His first 
motor yacht ran afoul a ledge on its trial run o5 the Massachusetts 
coast and a storm caved in its bottom plates before it could be floated 
clear. 

He failed in three tries in the International power-boat races on 
the Detroit River anpl finally gave it up as not his sport. Leaks, steering 
trouble, a bale of weeds and a cracked cylinder routed him. One boat 
foundered; another time he dropped in his clutch at starting time 
with the engine speeded up and broke a coupling on the propeller 
shaft. 

He turned over funds to the Detroit Institute of Arts for the 
$30,000 purchase of a bust .expertized as work of Mino da Fiesole. 
A year later a distracted art director who had recommended the deal 
came to dinner and told him on a following walk in a snow-storm, 
"The damned thing isn't right. . . . It's too pretty ... it looks worse 
every time I look at it . . ." 



212 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"In other words you think It's a fake," suggested the junior 
Ford placidly. 

"I'm afraid it is." 

"Well, such things happen. Don't worry." 

It was said at the time that if anyone had taken a walk in such 
a convenient storm with the senior Ford and made any such admis 
sion, he would have been found next morning head down in a snow 
bank; the bogus piece would have been quietly removed from its 
pedestal, and no one would have been told anything about it. 

The chairman of the commission and the institute director made 
public admission that they thought they had been taken in, that 
Detroit museum patrons had been looking for a year on an artistic 
counterfeit, and they were certainly sorry about the whole matter. The 
exposure rocked art centers but the piece was returned to the seller 
and substitution made of another work the director and the younger 
Ford could catalog and be comfortable in its authenticity. 

Edsel Ford had a $7,500,000 home on the shore of Lake St. Clair, 
Michigan, a lodge and several thousand acres in a nearby county, and a 
$3,000,000 stone "cottage" on his 75-acre island estate off the Maine 
coast, and the houses were crammed with treasure. He refused to make 
any home a museum, however, and it was enough that he and his wife 
liked a picture or a paneled wall. If they did it was not asked to fit 
clissical measurements. For his art gifts he sought authoritative judg 
ment to complement his own; for the embellishment of his home he 
relied on personal taste. 

An electrical repairman smashed a $30,000 Rhages bowl in the 
home by dropping the wooden cover of a console. The Persian poly 
chrome, which had weathered nine centuries, fell to pieces in a careless 
second. An exquisite Florentine bas-relief was shipped to a world's fair 
and the neck of the figure was cracked in the hanging. 

Behind the rich and seemingly restful facades young Ford lived 
with some deep anxieties extortionate letters, promised kidnapings, a 
demand for $10,000 signed by the Sicilian Anarchists' Association, 
whispers of plottings against his four children, sleep within a ring 
of guards, instructions to take red lights on high at lonely highway 
intersections for fear of lurking hoodlums in the darkness waiting for 
the car to make a regulation stop, a Ford house plan on an appre 
hended outlaw, rumors of gangsters picked up east and west and 



EDSEL 213 

hosed on information from the company's plant police during a wave 
of kidnapings. Down the fairways as father and sons teed off would be 
a gentleman or two with bulging shoulder holsters, pretending to be 
members after a lost ball instead of private police on hand to make sure 
that no one broke up a foursome for a little business of ransom. 

Edsel Ford was the victim of a $100,000 robbery in 1924 and 
party to a lush legend that was no less captivating for the fact that it 
was a riotous lie. 

After bidding good-night to two dinner guests one June night 
the host reported to the police that he and his wife had found upon 
retiring that her jewel case was gone and with it such major items 
as one $67,000 necklace of pearls and a second string valued at $27,000. 
Also missing were a platinum wedding ring, a woman's guard ring 
and a gold clock. They had been left on a dressing table in a second- 
floor bathroom. 

At 10:30 o'clock the host had seen the stones there. No one 
had been in the room to his knowledge from then until 12:30 when 
the family retired. The Fords and their guests had not left the ground 
floor in the intervening two hours. Because of a $1,000,000 blackmail 
letter recently received, four guards were on duty hi the shrubbery 
surrounding the home. 

The first theory was that the thief with accomplices had made 
his way by boat across the Detroit River, landed on the Ford rear 
lawn, and worked his way through the private police cordon to the 
house. By climbing a canopy which covered the drive, he then swung 
to a balcony opening on the second floor. The screen of a window 
within reach of the balcony was open. A modification of the modus 
operandi was that there had been no river craft but that the burglar had 
slipped into the grounds when the gates were opened to admit Ford 
or his guests. 

After a diligent army of detectives had combed the grounds, 
found no trace of the stolen gems and came upon no evidence of 
trampled earth or footsteps where an interloper might have hidden, 
it was announced five days later, that the law was now persuaded 
to think it an inside job. Finger-prints on the dressing table did not 
correspond, however, with those of any member of the house staff or 
any known jewel thief. 

On the old police report are the words "Do not publish" over 



2i 4 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

the initials of a retired chief of detectives, but the caution was unob 
served for a Detroit afternoon paper printed the story the day after 
the robbery. The chief acted promptly. He called all the men on the 
case into his office and chided them gently, saying "If I find the bastard 
who talked to reporters he'll be out walking in the woods." 

Ford phones were tapped and listened on for weeks in the hope 
that whoever had taken the stones would attempt to bargain for their 
return. The case moved no nearer solution and on the sixth day a 
company with which the jewels were insured for nine-tenths of their 
value offered the younger Ford a settlement of $89,000. He refused the 
check and said he preferred to give the police more time. 

A myth began to shape after the newspapers stopped printing 
day-to-day reports of no progress and it had the persistence and purple 
and illegitimacy of most Ford fictions. This one grew because many 
persons were willing to accept unsalted any wild story about Henry 
Ford. He had a penchant for doing the unexpected, did he not? Wasn't 
he, the rumor-mongers asked, the master of shockers? 

The fable was that Henry Ford had been one of the dinner 
guests and had taken the jewels himself. The romancers differed in 
their reasons but not in their certainty that this was the answer. He 
had taken them (i) As a practical joke and they were forgotten in 
his pocket when he left the house. After the alarm when detectives were 
swarming all over the place, it was difficult for him to confess the 
prank, but he would, you'd see, when the furore died down. (2) He 
had taken them in protest against leaving such an unlocked fortune 
in jewels strewn upon a table; and (3) He had removed them to express 
his opposition to such luxury spending and had thrown the whole 
shebang into the Detroit River. 

How the senior Ford could have accomplished all this in the 
presence of witnesses and on a summer night loaded his pockets and 
walked off without detection with two long ropes of pearls, a clock, 
a jewel case and some oddments in the pocket of his spring coat was 
blithely disregarded. 

Only a fertile imagination supported the stories. The jewels never 
reappeared. All leads petered out. The case still remains open in police 
records. An appraiser of precious stones was under surveillance 
for months but there were no tangible developments, and many weeks 
after the robbery a governess and a gardener resigning from the Ford 



EDSEL 215 

house staff and returning to Europe were searched upon arrival at 
Cherbourg and Southampton on the police theory that one or the other 
might have taken the pearls, cached them and used the Atlantic voyage 
to smuggle them out of the country. Who took the jewels, and how, 
remains an unsolved mystery. The attending fable was merely a sample 
of the opulent fiction in which the senior Ford's life abounded. 

What Edsel said he meant; whether his father did, you had to 
wait and see. To my regret I once misjudged him when he asked about 
a Continental honeymoon. I put down his interest to civility only and 
his offer to put me on wheels as something not to be taken too seriously. 

Why, he asked, did I not take a car to Europe? It cost too much, 
I remember saying. 

"We've got a place in Paris, and I think, in Milan." He had several 
millions invested in his Lombardy works but it apparently was not 
worth remembering. He said he'd make sure what kind of a setup the 
company did have in Italy. 

What did he mean by this? Was he talking for talk's sake? He 
probably would forget the conversation next day. A car in Italy and 
one in France? Not bad! Maybe a Lincoln, even. How would I be at 
those Swiss humps? It certainly would impress the bride. By the end 
of the week I put the whole thing out of mind as something not worth 
following up since it probably was only a casual remark. 

A week before sailing I did go to Dearborn on an outside 
chance my guess was wrong but there was no way to test it. Ford was 
getting his mortar-board ready for a trip to the University of Michigan 
to receive some honorary degree Cameron, his editor, was tubbing 
for 'the same mission. I dropped the whole thing. 

Back in three months I ran into the late Frank Campsall, Ford's 
personal secretary, at Dearborn. 

"Where in the world have you been?" he saluted. 

I told him. "I've got a couple of letters in my desk for you from 
Mr. Ford," he said. "So long ago I've forgotten what they're about." 
He said he'd get them. 

They were dated three months before. They were orders to the 
French and Italian plants to place cars at my disposal for whatever 
touring I wished to do in those countries and adjoining states. I be 
lieved everything Ford said after that, or nearly everything. 

The mechanical maze of the Ford empire paused memorially 



216 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

on the day in 1943 when the son of Henry Ford was buried, as it was 
to stop four years later when father followed son. An unsigned bulletin 
said that on May 26 Edsel Ford had died at his home after an illness of 
six weeks from a "condition" which developed from a former stomach 
malady for which he had been operated on sixteen months before. 
Undulant fever also was present. 

The last B-24 from the Willow Run assembly line is enshrined 
today not far from the plant as a peace memorial to him. He died 
too soon. 



The Boss whims were iron 
law to some upperclassmen 
who ruled by proxy. They 
were his strength sometimes, 
his weakness at others, and 
often his alibi. 



CHAPTER XV 
THE PALACE GUARD 



THE LATE Charles M. Schwab, chairman of the board of 
Bethlehem Steel, once asked a Ford official if he knew the 
difference between him and Henry Ford. 
"I hire men to tell me what to do/' the steel magnate 
said, as if the difference had been clear to him for a long time. "Your 
Mr. Ford hires them so he can tell THEM what to do." 

First there had been one man doing it all Ford himself puttering 
in a shed, at a kitchen sink, with a scorned idea. Later there were 
100,000 employees in a stupendous shed and he wanted them to do as 
he, the one man, said. The place was his why should he not do as he 
pleased with it? Was there any other man who had built such a pyra 
mid? Every time he showed his face did not the windows of the tallest 
buildings fly up and people throw confetti and ticker tape and the office 
telephone book in homage? 

The tool he bored with was so big, the kingdom he ruled so 
heterogeneous, his interests so catholic that errors were unavoidable, but 
he saw no reason to change a system of absolutism that had paid off 
so fruitfully. If there were better men than he they would have done 
what he had done and they hadn't. 

The Ford plant was no place for weaklings. It was a vast whisper 
ing gallery sown with booby-traps. Internecine rivalries carried with 
mounting intensity up through the intricate hierarchy to the daily 
luncheon-table where the favor of Ford was wooed. An employee in the 

217 



218 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

anonymity of a badge and not knowing whether the man next to him 
was a friend or a snooper reporting to the service department whatever 
he saw or heard, was no less uneasy than a member of the inner cabinet 
wondering who had told Ford what in an effort to unseat him. 

Power ran in cycles. A man was on top tomorrow he might be 
ignored. If he was not cast out entirely and managed to survive the 
pushing, reconciling himself to the new climate, the wheel might make 
another half spin and he'd be back on top where he started or back 
on the bottom if he had been on top. It seemed to stem from a philoso 
phy that a Ferris-wheel ride kept everyone on his toes. No one found 
it safe to walk with his chest too far out. Behind the next post might 
be a man with a pike on a hunt for egos. Even if the chest remained 
normal, its owner might still find himself impaled. 

I saw Ford show regret only once at the loss of an executive, 
and he would have been classified as minor in an organizational chart. 
It also was the only time I ever saw him cry. The mourned man was a 
dead test pilot in the ruins of a plane Ford had made the first Ameri 
can flying fortress, although at the time the term had not been 
coined. The flyer was Shearman Leroy Manning. The craft itself was 
a tri-motor experimental bomber which Ford did not care much about 
building but which was counted on to neutralize losses in his never- 
in-the-black airplane industry. - 

Work started in 1931 at the instigation of the War Department 
and the plane came along nicely. It had five gun mounts so arranged 
as to cover a plane coming in from any angle. When finished it went 
to Wright Field, at Dayton, Ohio, for a five weeks' testing. Some 
changes were recommended and it was received back into the Dear 
born engineering shop so alterations could be built in. It was wheeled 
out in September for new trials by Manning, chief test pilot of the 
company. 

He and Ford shared a hobby and were drawn together by it. 
Both were interested in watch repair. When the flyer had been in 
England at the same time as Ford he called on his boss. 

"You forget about planes for a few days," suggested the motor- 
maker. "We'll look for watches." 

Manning never got over talking of the shopping spree with a 
buyer who did not, as he did, have to examine price tags. 

On the test day at Dearborn Manning did about everything with 



THE PALACE GUARD 219 

the fortress. He said a couple of nights before to Fred Black, arj ad 
miring friend, that he knew from an unofficial trial that the plane was 
the answer to the War Department's hopes and had more diving power 
and speed than any he had seen in England. 

"I'll give her everything Saturday," he boasted. 
Black remonstrated. "Shearman, better take care up there." Man 
ning made light of the risks. "Well get up ten thousand and we'll have 
plenty of time to get out if anything happens," he assured his com 
panion. 

He and the mechanic did as promised. They put the new plane 
into extreme power dives again and again and it stood up beauti 
fully, and at length Manning brought her down and flattened out about 
200 feet off the ground for the three-mile speed course. As the flyer 
climbed in a sharp vertical turn, he sheared a wing-tip; neither he nor 
his mechanic had a chance to bail out. 

Ford walked into his editor's office an hour later with tears in his 
eyes. 

"I suppose you've heard what happened to Manning?" he asked. 
The editor said it was a terrible thing. 

"Well," said Ford, bitterly, "we made a plane to kill people and 
see who we killed!" He lost all interest in the war plane. 

Ford's grief at the crackup of his test pilot is recorded because 
sentimental attachments were exceptions. The rise and fall of company 
executives was usually unaccompanied by coddling or tears except those 
they may have let drop themselves. Distinguished heads fell. There was 
an insecurity which militated against a good night's sleep. 

What some executives learned too late was that Ford owned the 
business and intended to run it his way. The only method he found to 
handle men who got power-conscious and tried to run it some way he 
did not want it run was to cut them down or off. He did not enjoy mea 
who told him what was best for him to do. He knew what was best and 
he would tell them. 

A number believed they were on the mountaintop for keeps, 
riot noticing it was icy and narrow and marked "strictly private" in the 
largest of letters. One by one those who climbed with him or went up 
on his back lost their holds. It was a one-man summit. Only when Ford 
failed physically did he get down and surrender to his senior grandsoa 
the peak so long and vigilantly held. 



220 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

A quartet of men came to exceeding power. One was a car 
checker, one a pattern-maker,, the third a bank cashier, and the fourth 
an ex-seaman in the Navy. The first was James Couzens, only Ford 
administrator outside the family with a real stock interest. The later men 
in the upper slots were Charles E. Sorensen, production superintendent; 
Ernest G. Liebold, Ford's business secretary, and Harry Herbert Ben 
nett, chief of the company's private police. One attribute the last three 
shared a Ford wish was an edict from Sinai. 

For long Sorensen was a fabled Hercules striding the factory 
aisles getting rhythm into production, , doing amazing things with 
metals, building a three-mile conveyor line for bombing planes, taking 
a sledge in temper and cutting a roll-top desk in two. For a period a 
question in the trade was whether Bennett worked for Ford or Ford 
took orders from Bennett. To some he was just another fellow in an 
inevitable blue shirt and soft hat who liked athletic friends, trap doors, 
subterranean tunnels, secret panels and could tell Ty Cobb's batting 
average for 1920. To others he was a feared figure with hands stained by 
a thousand shady marplots. At an earlier period Liebold sat advan 
tageously on an upper step of the throne, said who and who could 
not approach the dais and was charged with egging on Ford in 1m 
Jewish campaign. 

The three grew in stature in the Ford organization. They repre 
sented to workers the penultimate in arrogant power. It was a power 
that did not run concurrently but there was not much difference 
in time when the triumvirate fell. Liebold's authority ebbed in the 
early Thirties. Sorensen's was in steady ascendancy, and in the pub 
lic eye in World War II he seemed bigger than ever, but a magazine 
may have quarried the first stone of his sepulcher by heralding him as 
the wonder man of the Willow Run Bomber plant. There was only one 
wonder man and it may have been that Mr. Ford, not feeling too well 
as it was, looked up from his reading at this point and said "Huh!" 

Sorensen and Liebold left in 1944. Bennett was last to heed an 
injunction laid by him on many workmen. Fronting the Rouge plant is 
Miller Road. Here had been a collision of police and marchers which 
bloodied the pavement. Here on an overpass Walter Reuther, current 
president of the United Automobile Workers, CIO, and Richard 
Frankensteen, an accompanying unionist, were kneed and slugged and 
hurled down a long flight of steps by plant guards. Here the union by a 



THE PALACE GUARD 221 

strike brought the operations of Ford Motor to a standstill. It was cus 
tomary for some foremen to say to workers they were firing, "Hit 
the Miller Road!" Cheek and jowl with fascinating rumor Bennett hit 
it in 1946. 

His parents brought Charlie Sorensen to the United States from 
Denmark in 1885 when he was four. At 32 he slung a rope over a shoul 
der, shook a blond cowlick out of his eyes and pulled a Ford Model T 
chassis 250 feet of factory floor through tentative assembling to time the 
processes and assist in establishing the automobile production line tech- 
nique. 

Behind him marched six men stepping off industrial history with 
him. They walked beside the moving car-to-be and picked up parts from 
carefully spaced piles, and they arrived at a combination by which p. 
chassis which had taken 14 hours to assemble previously, required only 
one hour and 33 minutes, a miraculous feat in those days of 1913. 
Thirteen years later with seven others he stamped 15,000,000 on the 
motor of the last Model T. Under his leadership forging gave way more 
and more to casting. His name was on many Ford patents. 

In World War II he was trumpeted as one of the world's great 
production men with an empirical knowledge of metals and dramatized 
as sitting down in a cramped California hotel room, sweating through 
the night and stepping out into the morning sun with a rough layout 
of the world's most colossal bomber plant complete in his pocket. 

Several Ford plant police came to his garage in 1944 and took 
away, without asking him, a company automobile in which he had just 
arrived home from Florida, and the act constituted, whichever you will, 
a notice that Sorensen was fired or that the company had accepted his 
quoted words from Miami that he was resigning because of ill health. 

For long storied years it was touch and go between Sorensen and 
Bennett. Now Henry Ford had emptied his knee of one of them. The 
subterranean stories that followed had only the backing of second or 
third parties, but the conclusion was that Bennett was winner and Soren 
sen loser in the tussle for power. The climactic collision between what 
were considered an irresistible force and an immovable object proved 
that one had been misappraised. Some saw in it a verification of rumors 
reported by the magazine Fortune that Henry Ford, approaching eighty- 
one, was under the spell of Bennett and that all Ford executives who 
would not bend the knee to Bennett had "resigned." 



222 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Workmen were badge-numbers to Sorensen. William S. Knud- 
sen, his one-time superior when they were building Eagle boats, soft- 
soaped Sorensen drove. He was a symbol of rough, free-style, old- 
school competition, kicking a stool from under a man if he thought 
he ought to be standing and axing a desk of a supervisor he thought 
was swelling with self-importance. In the shop he was cold and 
combative; socially, he was as pleasant as the next man and his extraor 
dinary good looks thrust him forward. When he "went to Europe and 
Ford cabled or dropped him a post-card, the motormaker would often 
omit the last name and address the communication simply "Charlie, 
Ford Motor Company." It always got through. 

Knudsen described his fellow Dane as a person as soft inside 
as a ripe peach but workmen favored less flattering similes. The tale 
was told and retold of Sorensen mistaking a sitting Detroit Edison 
worker for a Ford employee and kicking a box from under him, only 
to have the Edison man get up and knock him sprawling. When the 
story was printed in Fortune the production superintendent offered 
f 1,000 to anyone who proved it true and no one appeared to claim the 
money, although it may have been because electrical repairmen do not 
read dollar-a-copy magazines. If the fellows out there called him slave- 
driver and bone-crustier that was just too bad. He had to meet produc 
tion quotas, didn't he, in this dog-eat-dog business ? 

He learned a lot as he went along. One was not to puff a com 
petitor's program, and that often the best way to get over to Ford a 
desirable experiment of a rival was to back into it derogatorily by saying 
General Motors or Chrysler had gone hog wild and was doing some 
thing preposterous. He learned this lesson one noon in telling of a 
program G. M. was trying and allowing a note of interest if not approval 
to creep into his voice. Suddenly a steely eye on the other side of the 
table stabbed him. 

"Well, I see they got you, Charlie," Ford said. "They sold you, 
eh?" 

Those at the luncheon remember how quickly the subject was 
changed. Sorensen had forgotten to say beforehand that G. M. was a 
fool, as always, for trying whatever it was. 

He learned that spending Ford millions was not as easy as most 
people thought. "When I get it spent," he used to say, "Ford Motor 
Company must still have it." He learned not to play safe by saying some- 



THE PALACE GUARD 223 

thing would cost the company more when he knew it would cost less. 
When another executive submitted estimates, the Ford-Sorensen com 
bination always knew they were too damned safe and high, as they put 
it, and it was logical to chop them because the profit would still be there. 
"He thinks to be high is doing a good job," Ford grumbled to 
Charlie. 

He found that Ford did not make good drawings. Some were 
miserable. Funny, that, he thought. But Ford didn't have to ram his 
ideas into Charlie's head. Charlie could get some of them before Ford 
could commit them to paper. Sometimes Ford would scribble them on a 
piece of an envelope, or trace them with a finger-nail in the palm of 
his hand, or he would figure on a shingle. They hit it off. It was the 
reason a $3 a day pattern-maker of 1906 was a $225,000 a year man in 
1944 and that Ford kept saying "Take what you want, Charlie, if it isn't 
enough." Sorensen was always able to make a model of a dream. 

Models were all over the place there were miniatures of Willow 
Run, the Rouge, a i2-cylinder engine, always staring at you from the 
office next to his. He always built a model said if you could not see a 
thing you couldn't simplify it, and if you could not simplify, it was a 
fairly good sign you could not make it. By mocking up, the sketchy idea 
could be seen, felt and studied, and from the model one could go on to 
what was wanted, figuring first how to do it and then how to do it 
cheapest and fastest. 

Ford's order was a stroke of the royal pen. 

"Take Charlie, there, and what do you have?" a man beside me 
said 20 years ago at a luncheon table, pointing to Sorensen. "Do you 
know how he feels toward Mr. Ford?" I knew, I said, only that Ford 
gave him big things to do. 

"Sorensen" the next-door neighbor proceeded with his lecture 
"has a great outstanding value in Mr. Ford's eyes. It is this: Suppose 
Mr. Ford should suddenly say, Teople are crazy to go around the earth 
when the shortest way is through it.' Charlie would go back to the 
Rouge and start digging. He would muster an army and he would 
find ways, of course, to improve the machinery so he could bring 
up more and more dirt with fewer and fewer men. He'd get the thing 
into a rhythm." The luncheon guest took a second appraising glance 
at the subject of his sketch. "Of course, Mr. Ford might appear some 
day and say, seeing the hole, 'What are you doing, Charlie?' and Charlie 



224 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

would say in surprise, "Why, digging right through the earth. Don't you 
remember saying people were fools to go around the world when the 
best way was straight through the center?" Mr. Ford would say, 
vaguely, *Oh, yes,* and then 'Well, I guess we've had enough of that. 
Better fill the hole up again.' " The gentleman next to me thought it 
was wise to bear in mind there were two other reactions, of course, that 
Ford might have. He also could say he was sure he had never said 
anything of the kind or he might toss in a suggestion that would enable 
Charlie to raise the number of scoopsful an hour from 100 to 130. 

England asked for him in World War I when its food situation 
became desperate. It needed tractors and Ford said, "Get over there!" 
When C. S. tried to get British factories to make them, the low bid was 
$1,500 with no promise of when as to delivery. 

"We will make 5,000 at Detroit at a unit cost not in excess of $700, 
start shipping in sixty days," he promised, and the whole order was in 
England within three months. 

He went to Russia in the Twenties and came back with an initial 
order for $75,000,000 that later ran into a staggering total Ford thought 
anything done for Russia would help everybody. I asked Sorensen what 
he thought now. 

"I only know what I read in the papers," he said laconically. 

He remembered best the initial contract. The first year the ship 
ments were without fenders and radiators Russia began by making 
those. The next year it was without axles. 

"What I remember most" he was looking out at his ship in 
the boat well, "is that every contract was met on the spot, every bill 
paid, no bill ever questioned." 

World War II brought fresh problems. One was the press and the 
magazines saying pleasant but risky things about the boss of the Rouge 
as war gathered momentum. It was he, they said, who had the idea of 
casting motor blocks, crankshafts and gears in making automobiles. 
Some attributed to him the entire development of the conveyor sys 
tem and assembly lines that had put the Ford Company in front. One 
story said he had become a "major and constantly growing influence in 
all the ramifications of the Ford company." There was one eulogistic 
caption in particular, "Huge Bombers Roll Out Under Ford's Master 
Producer." 

He had built and equipped Willow Run. He was Ford's "daily 



THE PALACE GUARD 225 

consultant." Many of the improvements in the Ford car, the processes 
o manufacturing and the patents developed, sprang from ideas he 
originated, the authors said. The President of the United States was 
reported calling him to Washington. King Christian of Denmark made 
him a Commander of Dannebrog. 

The War Department asked for an organizational chart of the 
company and Sorensen said they didn't have anything like that. The 
War Department said the company could make one, couldn't it? 
Charlie said it couldn't because Ford was not going to fritter time away 
on pictures there was too much else to do. Besides, "we don't operate 
that way." When Charlie got back to Dearborn Ford said he had had a 
telephone call, and what was the fuss in Washington? His production 
man told him. 

"What did you tell the Secretary of War?" asked Charlie. 

"I told him to see you," said Ford. "That was your department." 

Generals, foreign missions, Washington officials, ordnance ex 
perts, airplane people often put themselves under his wing. After all, 
he had a lot of answers they were seeking. It may have been he was 
more accessible. Ford was off somewhere or over in Greenfield Village 
or indisposed and the messengers of war did not have time to waste 
and wanted to talk turkey in a hurry. 

Slowly the senior Ford became a little more abrupt and waspish. 
Sorensen did not seem to be getting the old-time co-operation. Ford was 
slightly less attentive to what he said. Besides, it was well known that 
the motormaker first hunted up Bennett each morning. They went for 
long rides. 

Some soft drink machines appeared in the plant without Soren 
sen being told in advance. 

"Who put those in here?" he demanded. 

"Mr. Bennett." 

"He and I used to talk over those things," Sorensen complained. 
"What's getting into him?" 

He said to get them out before someone began pitching empty 
bottles exuberantly into the machines. 

Some bonus checks were reduced 25 per cent. He took it up with 
the Old Man. 

"A lot of fellows are working damned hard," he complained. 
"They ought to get an increase instead of a decrease." 



226 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Ford said he didn't know anything about it. The next week the 
checks for the subtracted 25 per cent came through. The senior Ford 
passed on all bonuses. Sorensen finally walked in and said, "There 
doesn't seem anything for me to do, so I guess I'll go to Florida." No 
one said not to go. 

Stories differ from there on. One was that he had no more than 
reached Florida than certain of his lieutenants at the Rouge were radi 
cally shifted on orders of Bennett. Word came to Sorensen and he 
telephoned Ford at his Georgia plantation. A secretary brought word 
back that Ford did not want to talk to him. It was said he persisted 
and that the secretary returned with a different message. 

"I'm sorry, Charlie, but Mr. Ford says I'm to tell you you're 
through," he is purported to have said. It was said that Bennett had 
made the changes at the Rouge on Ford's orders. 

Another story was that in Florida Sorensen wrote a letter to 
Georgia, after trying to reach Ford repeatedly by phone. He got no 
answer. After long delay Ford's secretary called and said Mr. Ford 
wanted to know when he was returning. "When is he going to reply to 
my letter?" snapped the production man. 

Around midnight a second voice, this time from Detroit, said, 
"Tell Charlie not to drive that company car back to Detroit but deliver it 
to the branch in Jacksonville." There was no explanation. Sorensen got 
Jacksonville and they didn't know anything about taking delivery of the 
car. He got suspicious. He threw his bags into the car, left Miami at 
5:30 in the morning and headed north. The Jacksonville branch is said 
to have been advised at 8 A.M. to go to Sorensen's address and pick up 
the car he was driving. If it missed him, it was to have the car im 
pounded at Atlanta. Sorensen came home through the Carolinas and 
missed the road blocks. The day after he reached home the plant police 
took the car out of his garage. 

I went to see Sorensen at his summer place in Algonac, Mich., 
after he had finished with Ford and in the course of an afternoon in his 
study I admired a wood boat under glass and commented on it. It was 
a delicately carved ship but he made it much more. He held it with 
the bowsprit toward me so I could get a fore-and-aft view. 

"Picked it up in London several years ago. Do you like it?" He 
called attention to certain spars and the painstaking care that had gone 
into its making. Then he walked over to a better light and turned it so 



THE PALACE GUARD 227 

I could see its details athwart. "Now look at it!" All the time he talked 
with enthusiasm o the rig and the detail, and as he did one caught a 
glimpse of the talent which probably had carried him up. The ship 
seemed to swell to his praise and become more than a trinket under 
glass it took on a normal ship's dimensions and seemed ready to set 
out for Buenos Aires if put down in the Detroit River not fifty feet from 
the study door. 

It was a paneled room of reels and rods and the skeleton of a 
348-pound blue marlin on an oaken board; some dueling pistols, water 
colors, and walls papered with pictures of Hap Arnold and Charlie, 
Eisenhower and Charlie, Walter Hagen and Mickey Cochrane and 
Eddie Rickenbacker and Jimmy Doolittle and many other celebrities 
who had come at times and looked bug-eyed at the Rouge. Scattered 
among them were group pictures of Ford executives from 1905 to 1943, 
rising out of camera shyness and stiffness to aplomb. 

Off an adjoining garage were other rooms reminiscent of ship's 
quarters with blue and white enameled plates indicating the captain's 
and the crew's accommodations. A few feet off the entrance to the study 
his yacht was at anchor. His sumptuous Icaro, with its radio telephone 
over which he used to issue orders to the Rouge when he was cruising, 
was a familiar craft off the Bahamas. He always had a boat from 
the time he paddled a raft on the Niagara River; later he was commo 
dore of the Yachtsmen's Association of America which ran the Harms- 
worth races. 

To many, the Ford-Sorensen separation marked the end of an era 
and a legend, but he looked little different from the time when it was 
freely said when he walked down an aisle at the Rouge it would not 
have been surprising if someone threw a wrench at him. A heavy cast 
ing, dropping somehow from a height, missed him by a hair. la a towqr- 
ing rage or a fit of exhibitionism he would smash a desk or several. 
He would take a hammer and split one in two. If you did not work in 
the plant and know him you simply didn't believe it. 

The plant* lore was breath-taking. Desk-smashing was said to 
be a provocative way of notifying whoever came to the ruined desk that 
he was not to get too big for his breeches or nurse any false ideas of 
luxury due rank, or simply that he was through. The legends climbed 
the plant fences and spread and in the long ago seekers of drama driv 
ing past were a bit disappointed not to see broken chairs and desk tops 



228 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

raining from the windows, and could only explain it by an assumption 
that they had arrived too early or late for the performance. 

The Rev. Dr. Samuel S. Marquis wrote on the eerie breakage in 
resigning in 1921 as head of the company's sociological department : 

"If the work of certain clerks in the shop is not wanted, why tell 
them? Smash their desks. That is unusual, grotesque and very amusing. 
A man who ventures to wear a white collar in a shop deserves to have 
his life made a burden. Expensive tools of workmen are scattered over 
the floors. Foolish? Humiliating? Insulting? Not at all. It takes the 
conceit out of a man who prides himself on his work. It prevents him 
from getting into a cozy-corner and admiring himself." 1 

An oft-repeated story was of a recreation building that was said 
to have melted away over night when some employees' antics at a dance 
were reported to Ford. The tale is that when workers filed in the gate 
24 hours later there wasn't a sign that the building ever stood where it 
had. A whole department was banished when he could not figure why 
the company had 300 people at the work the department was doing, 
although the work was standard office practice. It had to be done and 
was except that to get by Ford's objections the unit had to be dis 
solved and the same work carried on by the redistributed staff without 
his knowledge in a number of departments instead of one. 

A collector's item involved the senior Ford, Sorensen and the 
late William B. Mayo, one-time chief engineer in charge of development. 
Mayo and Sorensen feuded, and romancers proceeded to tell with the 
gusto of eye-witnesses of a day when the engineer walked into his office 
and found his furniture had come apart under an accomplished axe. 
Ford reacted judicially. 

"If Charlie smashed your desk, why don't you go over and break 
up his?" he was said to have advised. The shrug that went with the 
remark seemed to say the pattern of revenge was clear. 

The story had no truth in it but gained credence, as did others like 
it, because of a prevailing belief that the recipe for retaliation was one 
he might have given // his chief engineer's desk had been demolished. 

With Sorensen an epoch was ending. 

"Any regrets?" I asked. 

He waved an arm at the pictures. 

"Mr. Ford gave me a look at the world and an acquaintance 

1 Henry Ford An Interpretation, by Dr. S. S. Marquis, Little Brown. 



THE PALACE GUARD 229 

with people I'd never have known if it had not been for him," he said 
appreciatively. 

Tops in power in the later years of the Henry Ford regime was 
Harry Herbert Bennett, former Navy man and sometimes called, when 
the description was not more blasphemous, the little man in Henry 
Ford's cellar because that is where his office was. He was captain of the 
watch and he lived by one rubric to get done what the motormaker 
wanted and alertly anticipate what he wanted if he could. The end justi 
fied the means. He was chief of the most potent private police com 
mand in industry though he preferred the obscurantism of director of 
personnel. 

"If it were my business I would know how to run it," he simpli 
fied his philosophy. "Being Mr. Ford's, he knows how he wants it run 
and up to the hilt I try to run it his way." 

Ford had Augean stables to clean and hydras to be slain, and 
when he wrote out the order slips Bennett made delivery for close to a 
quarter century or did his best, fastidiously or otherwise. His orders 
came to him in a usually standard form. Ford simply would say, "I 
think something ought to be done about that." Afterward he would re 
mark thankfully, "Harry gets things done in a hurry," and he said it so 
often it came to sound like a recording. In the internecine in-fighting 
within the plant the director of personnel lasted longest. Until a few 
months before his death Ford telephoned him each morning as soon 
as he woke. 

A magazine writer called the motormaker late in the war and 
asked if he could see him if he came to Dearborn, and Ford said to 
come along. A few hours later he and Ford, Bennett and a Detroit news 
paperman were in a car heading for the bomber plant. At one point in 
the conversation the magazine man remarked that in his eighty rocket 
ing years Ford had met a great number of statesmen, crowned heads, a 
galaxy of scientists, engineers. Would he care to say which of these he 
considered the greatest he had ever met? 

"Him," said Ford, thumbing in the direction of the passenger at 
his side. 

The writer looked at the pointing finger and was a little per 
plexed. 

"Whom do you mean, Mr. Ford?" 

"Harry Bennett," said the host, beaming upon his candidate. 



2 3 o THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

The two writing men on the ride were not quite sure if Ford was 
sincere, Bennett's position as exclusive confidante being what it was at 
the time, or whether it was merely his way of turning aside a question 
in which he was uninterested. 

Bennett had five homes one a ranch-type cabin with a deer pen 
on an island in the middle of Michigan's Huron River, one a stronghold 
not far from the University of Michigan campus, a cottage on Lake 
St. Claire, a ranch house on tht West Coast and a place of Oriental 
decoration on Grosse He, an island in the Detroit River, which he is 
said to have traded for his Palm Springs retreat, unseen, when a new 
road was cut through the island and gaping passersby disturbed his 
privacy. He was well roofed for a man who once said he lived two years 
in the basement for lack of . funds to go on when his Ypsilanti, Mich., 
home was building. 

He and Fancy embroidered whatever he did, and a venturesome 
life produced, of course, departures from the norm. At a touch of a 
push-button in his riverside castle the back wall of a shower swung open 
on silent hinges and enabled him to walk in safety from house to garage 
by a 40-foot tunnel In his Chinese-style establishment on Grosse He 
picking up a bottle no different than a dozen others released a spring, 
the private bar swung open as though on a revolving stage and behind 
it steps descended to the boat well of his yo^foot, all-steel yacht. 

These dreamy devices were by no means the phobia of a man 
with a nightmare over an Inner Sanctum performance. They were safe 
guards against any caller who came with a sub-machine gun and a 
score to pay. Bennett knew many people who did not wish him 
well. 

For Ford he carried out many important missions, and what he 
did he did without question. Ford's opinions were his. He ruled with an 
iron rod, but of course if Ford had not wanted it that way he could 
have taken the rod out of Bennett's hand at any time and locked it 
away. As a matter of fact Ford- delighted in the game of cops and 
robbers, and the service department was that. 

Bennett was an intermediary when Ford decided to patch his 
differences with the Jewish people by a complete apology. He was the 
agent to the underworld when Ford became panicky over the safety of 
his grandchildren. He was in the foreground of the parleys which led 
to the signing of a union shop contract with the United Automobile 



THE PALACE GUARD 231 

Workers. What was most significant was that while the right of 
collective bargaining had been supposedly established by law in 1933, 
the breastworks Bennett threw up still stood long after the defenses of 
competitors had been flattened and nine years elapsed before a National 
Labor Relations Board election was held in the Ford plant. 

An unexplained explosion below decks ripped the seams of a ship 
in the harbor of Port St. Louis, African terminus of the Cadiz cable, and 
fire burned her -quickly to the waterline in 1916. It stopped for good 
some salvage work and the making of chart sections for the French 
government off the coast of Senegal. 

Two members of the crew, stripped of all they had, set out afoot 
for the nearest port 160 miles down the coast. The travelers lived mostly 
on peanuts and rice, wishing the land grew something more tasty. 

Seven days later, bearded and pooped out, they dragged them 
selves out of the swamps at Dakar with a parlous tale of a native who 
had slashed the face of one and the lobe of the other's ear before they 
managed to toss him and his knife into a handy bog then onto a 
Spanish freighter they went, standing out that night for Jersey. 

If one sailor prized anonymity no one disturbed it. His name is 
forgotten. It was his companion who kept on going and took on might. 
His name was Bennett, or Sailor Reese as he was known in Navy fistic 
circles, and he was hired at the Ford River Rouge plant when the com 
pany was getting started on World War I contracts. 

At the time only a furnace and one building were up. The air 
was electric with alarms. It was the nation's first experience with a 
war of such dimensions and whispers were plentiful of Hun agents in 
overalls spying on America's preparations. New employees, poured in 
and there was no time to be choosy about pedigrees. An army of 75,000 
was going to be no picnic to handle. 

A worried production boss thought to forearm himself by tele 
phoning a boxing promoter and asking him to recruit all the plug- 
uglies he knew the tougher the better and the entrepreneur delivered 
as gaudy an assortment of cauliflower ears as ever assembled in a back- 
street gymnasium. 

One of the supervisors selected to give the motley force direction 
was Bennett, just done with two hardening stretches in the Navy and 
the jungles of West Africa. A hard-bitten giant of a steel-worker showed 
up at the gate and tried to muscle aside the 5~foot-5 Bennett when asked 



232 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

to produce his badge. Rules had been tightened and orders were to 
admit no person without one. 

"I'd like to see anybody stop me!" The badgeless one came on, 
moving to brush away the puny barrier. 

Quarter-deck fights against some of the best lightweights in the 
fleet had done well by Bennett's muscles. The belligerent got up from 
the cinders with a sheepish look of disbelief and all for peace. 

"Maybe I better go home and get my badge.' 5 He backed off and 
went out the gate. 

A superintendent making Eagle boats for Ford was an eye 
witness. He picked Bennett to oversee the motley task force, and from 
this beginning the sailor won for himself over the years a pervasive 
power and built an espionage system of such efficiency that even after a 
New Deal had been declared on Miller Road, two employees talking at 
a desk with an intercommunication transmitter on it stopped, af 
frighted, when one said, "Say, are you sure that damned switch is 
closed?" 

After ten years Ford assigned him to a basement office in the 
Rouge plant and this was his grandiose sentry-box. This was the plot 
room where service men were briefed in what Mr. Ford wanted. Here 
was hatched Ford strategy and here was assembled a strange garrison 
whose membership ran from pleasant all-American athletes to unplea 
sant all-American muggs. Here in time most visitors were sifted and 
told if they could or could not see Ford. To this room the motormaker 
telephoned first each morning to ask "How goes it?" Here you could 
learn by listening close which executive probably would walk the plank 
next, how far that running back dashed through tackle for Southern Cal 
in some year or other to beat Notre Dame, why the Yankees figured to 
take the world series. Here informers told what they knew. 

In this room was planned the defense intended to prevent a 
duplication in the Ford plant of the sit-down strikes which had embar 
rassed competitors. Here underworld contacts were made when the 
nation shuddered over kidnappings and it seemed probable the names 
of Ford grandchildren might be in the hat and drawn at any time. 

"I can replace factories but not grandchildren," the senior Ford 
put his foot down. "Drop everything and get busy." 

Bennett was reported thereafter going from underworld hideout 
to hideout and acquainting shady, flint-eyed gentlemen with a message 



THE PALACE GUARD 233 

that if any harm came to the Ford children their grandfather would sell 
the plant and devote the rest of his days and considerable fortune to 
giving gangland a taste of cut-throat war on a scale it never had known 
before. At tough games he also could play for keeps. Now, possibly, a 
little trading could be done 

A quasi-official biographer, James Sweinhart, was to write later 
in the Detroit News of some of this dealing: 

"As time went on, here and there over the country some one near 
to a gangster chieftain in one kind of trouble or other found legal aid 
appearing from some unexpected source to help them get all they were 
entitled to under the law, and this did not lessen Bennett in their esteem. 

"The novel approach bore fruit. Several times well laid plans of 
kidnappers leaked through to Ford's men from grateful figures in the 
underworld in time for him to block the attempts by exposing the plans 
to the conspirators themselves. The conspirators greatly appreciated 
the fact that he did not wait until they attempted the kidnappings 
and were killed. 

"An automobile loaded with armed men stopped for a red light 
near a gate of the Rouge plant on the way to stick up a pay office. 
Bennett called one of the men from the car over to the fence and advised 
him and his companions that guards with machine guns were waiting 
their arrival. The mobsters were thankful for the tip and called the 
holdup off." 

He hid on a Ford boat for a month a frightened eye-witness of a 
murder whose testimony sent three gangsters to prison for life at hard 
labor. 

The service department took on a picaresque flavor. To it came 
an erstwhile welterweight champion on parole from San Quentin 
after eight years for killing a woman, a big league pitcher tossed out 
of organized baseball for throwing a world's series, a Sicilian bad man 
who was rubbed out by his countrymen with two bullets in his head a 
few months after he and the company parted and he returned to private 
practice. 

The police regarded as long overdue the misfortune of Chester 
A. LeMare, vice overlord. They had arrested him seventeen times but 
had not been able to make any charge stick. Trigger-men brought in 
their verdict, however, and quickly put it into execution. LeMare wound 
up a busy iniquitous life on his kitchen floor and he was unlucky in that 



234 THE LAST 

it was the only room where there wasn't a gun under a pillow, but at 
the automobile plant he had a profitable fruit concession and the under 
world said he ran his rum-runners and hi-j ackers as a petty side 
line. 

A New York newspaper later charged that LeMare had been 
hired as Ford's personal bodyguard when an automobile mishap in 
which the motormaker was sideswiped into a ditch and had to be hos 
pitalized was interpreted by the service department as gangland's answer 
to a refusal to pay "protection." 

The plant corpsmen never were drawn up for review, so they 
could not be counted or recognized, but estimates of their number ran 
all the way from 400 to 3,000, inclusive of sweepers, straw bosses and 
informers generally. They were not uniformed. In the forefront were 
the bright-eyed athletes. It was only in time of battle that there seemed 
to climb out of culverts a seamier band to tear up reporters' notes, smash 
photographers' cameras and bash recalcitrants' heads. Reporters often 
wondered where they had seen men like these before and only could 
think of the morning police showup. 

Service men spied on workers and undercover men spied on serv 
icemen. Lunch-baskets and lockers were searched for subversive litera 
ture, subversive meaning any reading matter which 'Spoke well of trade 
unionism. Informers posed as mechanics, worked in the shop and 
tattled on their fellows. Unionists complained of union buttons yanked 
off work-shirts, of men whose feet were jumped on to provoke revolt 
and provide excuse for firing. Negroes complained up to 1938 that it 
was impossible for them to get a Ford job unless they went to a limited 
group of important Negro preachers who had demonstrated complete 
agreement with Henry Ford in politics and in industrial relations, i.e., 
pro-Republican and anti-union. 

The expanding plant became a series of spotless caves where some 
times even Mr. Ford got lost. It was so big, he once remarked discon 
solately, it wasn't fun any more. It certainly got so large a hundred Fords 
could not personally keep a finger on all its activities. 

Bennett's basement office had everything, even to discussions of 
art. He did a little himself and ornamented the walls of his homes with 
the best from his brush, although an enemy once said it was after Ford 
had inspected his gendarme's canvases that he said he would not give five 
cents for all the art in the world. Once when Clyde Beatty, animal 



THE PALACE GUARD 235 

trainer, gave the personnel director a pair of lion cubs, Bennett posed 
them and painted them in the basement studio before taking them 
home. 

Someone hung on him the description "The Little Man Who 
Gets Things Done for Ford" and others used a diminutive "The Little 
Guy." One correspondent reported he held one of the ten toughest jobs 
in the United States but blithely failed to identify the other nine. 
There were thousands who used all the epithets in the lexicon of 
abuse in speaking of him, however and then began with the A's 
again. 

He raised beef cattle, delighted in saddle horses, thought Moby 
Dic\ the best book ever written, played a saxophone and carried a gold- 
plated revolver. In his office he popped away at a six-inch target so ar 
ranged that pellets would slide into a slot instead of spraying the room. 
Ford had one like it. Once after two warnings that smoking was not 
permitted in the Ford plant, Bennett shot a cigar out of an astonished 
caller's mouth. He liked chows and music, didn't like flowers or driving 
an automobile. He loved a practical joke, as did his employer, and to 
many his informality, heels on desk, was a relief from the stuffy decorum 
of some other officials. 

A judge almost parted company with him over a hunting prank. 
Going to an upstate lodge Bennett came on an old harness shop with a 
decorative wooden horse in front. He bought it and loaded it into his 
car. The jurist, who arrived next day, had no more than reached his 
favorite runway when he opened fire on a first-rate buck but when he 
came up with it he found instead he had mortally peppered a pine 
horse. Bennett and his confederates had spent two hours the night 
before wiring antlers to the harness man's dummy and another half 
hour planting it strategically in the woods to make an attractive target. 
The judge took it badly. He got into his car and drove home. 

Bullets were reported raining his direction. He said his daughter 
had answered his Ypsilanti door-bell and a stranger let go with two 
bullets intended for him. A bullet ploughed through his windshield 
another time but he believed he was accidentally caught in the cross-fire 
of rival gangs. Five men in an automobile were reported as crowding 
him off the road but he allegedly drew his gun and the quintet made off. 
In 1932 he was felled by a paving block in a demonstration before the 
plant in which four marchers were killed. Rescuers found Bennett under 



236 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

a parader. There was a slight difference between the two. Bennett was 
merely unconscious the marcher was dead. 

Political candidates waited to get a good word from him. His 
influence was broad and had long talons. He did many favors and 
naturally where they did the most good. An enemy leaving the plant 
might find his car would not start or a tire mysteriously flat a friend 
might discover a wash and a grease job and occasionally a new motor. 
The department was eminently practical. Whomever Ford might plunk 
for, the service department buttered its bread on both sides and even on 
the edges. It made connections where connections might be profitable, 
and it was impossible to guess always where that would be. It was 
policy to know the right people. 

Bennett was a realist. Two collaborators did a book about him 
and when they finished it submitted the copy. He was disappointed and 
said no one would recognize him. 

"In what way, Harry?" asked one of the authors. 

"Well," he responded, "y u don't say I'm a son of a bitch." 

He said that no one acquainted with his reputation for toughness 
would accept any book which did not blast him as a scoundrel. He was 
sincere in his criticism and refused to sanction a log-rolling script which 
made him out a completely lovable fellow. He handed the pages back. 

"You know what they say of me," he completed the lecture. 
"Well, write it in the book. If you don't, no one will believe a word 
of it." 

Newspapermen got along well with Bennett. They liked his 
breeziness and willingness to provide background material. One did a 
four-column feature calling him "This rugged, proud, impulsive bundle 
of dynamite." A second did a series of articles as the result of a futile 
search of files when Bennett fell from a horse and a newspaper found 
it had little biographical material. 

"Drop everything," said a worried editor, "and get an obituary 
of him. He's being shot at. Now he spills from a horse. We may wake 
up some morning and find him dead or president of the Ford Motor 
Company. Where will we be then?" 

The personnel director refused to contribute at first. He said he 
didn't care how many other men agreed to have their obituaries prettily 
composed against their day of doom. 

"If I did anything like that it would be sure to happen," he 



THE PALACE GUARD 237 

parried. "Why should I put the finger on myself?" The reporter said, 
"Come on, Harry," but Bennett again said no in a voice once described 
as the bark o a chief petty officer subdued to the proprieties of the parlor. 

Another approach won his co-operation several months later. 

"You have said yourself, Harry, that if anything happens to Mr 
Ford you're probably through," the reporter argued this time. "You've 
had an amazing life here with him and done an extraordinary job for 
him. Why not let me write it in case anything does happen to Ford and 
things come out as you think they will? Or in case you're moved still 
higher?" Bennett had been made a director in 1943. 

The newspaper decided the resultant story was too interesting to 
put in storage, published it in installments, claimed a circulation run-up 
of 25,000. A month later Bennett wrote a letter to Henry Ford II: 

"This is my resignation as a member of the board of directors of 
Ford Motor Company. I appreciate your request that I continue . . . 
but I must be free to engage in other business." He wished the company 
every success under the guidance of the grandson. 

Rumors promptly spread, however, that the resignation of Ben 
nett had been solicited and that a new Ford generation had taken a 
fancy to John S. Bugas, quiet former charge d'affaires of the Detroit 
office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who became associated 
with the company during the war at Bennett's invitation. 

A brush between Bennett and the newcomer was later reported 
which ended in the latter allegedly offering Henry Ford II his resigna 
tion. The friction was said to have originated upon Bennett's return 
from an extended vacation in California and a discovery that hi his 
absence the young Ford had become so accustomed to doing business 
with Bennett's assistant that they continued what seemed a pleasant 
relationship after Bennett was back at his desk. 

"I think I shall see my grandmother," the younger Ford was 
reported as saying when the rumored Bugas resignation /was received. 
The senior Ford was failing fast. 

With the policies and methods of several executives the late Edsel 
Ford was not in accord in his life-time and his sons were fully aware 
of their father's frustrations. He did not condone some practices but 
he had to live with them. 

The alleged outcome of the family conference was a complete 
delegation of power to hire or fire and make any changes Henry Ford II 



238 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

saw fit. In the exercise of this broadened authority it was promised that 
Fair Lane would offer no obstacle. Bennett went. Bugas stayed. 

Once it was Ernest G. Liebold who guarded the Ford draw 
bridge, who hired and fired and who basked in broad power. As 
business secretary to the motormaker his favor was as obsequiously 
curried as was Bennett's in later years. Until his authority paled in the 
Thirties no job was too big or foreign for his confidence and energy. 

When he was dropped in a mid-war purge he was the only one 
who publicly repudiated an announcement that he had resigned. 

"I would like you to print a correction," he telephoned a news 
paper, incensed. "I did not resign or quit I was fired." 

"Do you want that said?" the editor asked. 

"Certainly," Liebold replied. "It's true." 

Liebold was cashier of a Detroit bank in 1909 when its president 
decided to launch a bank near the Ford plant in partnership with James 
Couzens, the Ford company's general manager. 

"I have agreed Jim can have the controlling interest if I can name 
the cashier. I've picked you, Ernest," said Liebold's employer. 

As a result, Liebold only had to step across the street when he 
became Ford's secretary at $200 a month two years later. At the end of 
another two years he was not certain the change had been a good one. 
He had no idea if his work had pleased and while there had been 
bonuses and salary increases he got none. 

"You haven't had a raise in a long time, have you?" Ford re 
marked at the end of that time, however. "I wanted to see if you would 
quit." He started out of the room as if that was all he had to say but 
he remembered in time what he had come for. "Write yourself a check 
for $10,000," he said. In the three decades that Liebold was with him 
Ford never was to sign a personal check. That was one of the secre 
tary's chores, and he had power of attorney for both Ford and Mrs. 
Ford, but in the long span of intimate relationship Liebold never called 
Ford anything but "Mr." Ford and Ford always addressed his secretary 
as "Mr." Liebold. 

The motormaker had his own curious ways of "testing" em 
ployees. He walked into another office once with a sheaf of papers and 
gave every impression they were so important they were about to burn 
up in his hands. He exacted a promise that they be put away securely 
and not surrendered to anyone but him, and he accented the mood of 



THE PALACE GUARD 239 

intrigue by furtive glances about the room and into adjoining offices 
as if to make sure his maneuvers were unobserved. 

A young executive sealed the papers and locked them up. Three 
days later an assistant secretary appeared and said Mr. Ford was asking 
for some documents he had entrusted to the first man a few days before. 

"What papers?" the foresworn custodian pretended surprise. 
"Mr. Ford gave me none." 

He was summoned to Liebold's office. 

"Bring me the papers Mr. Ford left with you," ordered the secre 
tary. "I can't imagine your saying you haven't them" the tone rose to 
bullying pitch "Mr. Ford tells me he turned them over to you." 

The gentleman in possession of the sealed envelope reiterated that 
Mr. Ford had done nothing of the kind and must be confusing him with 
someone else. After that he got out, sure of a parting thunderclap but 
heard none. Ford himself sauntered in two days later and asked for 
the mysterious papers. 

"Right here," the relieved trustee unlocked the safe and turned 
over the envelope. 

No explanation was ever given. The assumption was that the 
papers had no intrinsic value and that this was a test of an untried 
executive's ability to do as told and keep his mouth shut, for a week 
later he was assigned to a mission calling for both qualities. 

Virtually the first chore Liebold did for Ford was to buy him a 
set of false whiskers; his last was to prepare during World War II a 
ninety-page report on German contributions to world progress. 

The motormaker was annoyed upon reaching the plant one morn 
ing. 

"Get me a false beard," he ordered. "Everyone on Tireman 
Avenue is stopping me on the way to the plant." 

He came in a few days later and disconsolately laid the disguise 
on the secretary's desk. 

"It didn't fool anybody," he said. "I'll have to think of something 
else." He said he had been waylaid, just as much as if he had not worn 
the chic whiskers, by people who wanted jobs or favors of every sort. 

Incidentally, advisers never were able to break Ford of his habit 
of giving strangers a lift in his car. He always was escorting into the 
Highland Park plant in the early days some disheveled one he had 
picked up, and directing that a place be found in the shop for his new 



240 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

found friend. If accosted while walking he would not stop at the hail of 
someone he did not know he finally agreed that one man might stop 
him so a confederate could slug him from the back but he was sure 
he could handle any single person who got into his car and proved 
obstreperous. Strong and wiry at sixty, he managed a mad deer on the 
estate that butted him and kept coming. He hung to an antler with one 
hand, whipped a jackknife from a pocket and while being dragged 
along ended the battle by cutting the animal's jugular vein. 

The unworkable disguise had long gone into the discard, pre 
sumably, but a carbon of the results of Liebold's last assignment is at 
hand. The introduction is short: "Following is a list of some of the dis 
coveries and achievements of the Germans. They have led the world in 
science, chemistry and music. How much of the advancement of the 
human race may be traceable to their accomplishments is a question 
which might be interesting to determine.'* 

He and the secretary were discussing German peace-time achieve 
ments and after running over some of the better work, Ford figured 
he'd like to go deeper into the study. 

"Get me up a list, will you, Mr. Liebold?" 

Of course the request meant only that at the moment Ford was 
interested in the subject a week later he might not be. His interest 
in many cases was fleeting. If a report could be delivered to him next 
morning, a subject might be kept alive that long, but if time was 
required to assemble material and a week elapsed, the researcher might 
find when he finally delivered his report that Ford had forgotten he 
ordered it. 

People who read ulterior significance into Ford's admiration for 
Germany and insinuated that the same admiration extended to Potsdam 
and Berchtesgaden, missed the point. He was interested in Germany 
because of its efficiency, cleanliness, its manufacturing methods and its 
products, and because he thought Germans as a race worked harder than 
other people. These were virtues he believed in. They were, in his book, 
the most important things in life. 

A distinguished visitor in World War I protested the continued 
employment of a superlative German-American draftsman at the plant. 
Ford did not answer the guest direct but turned to one of his top offi 
cials, a little grimly, and said, "Charlie, if you can find a dozen more 
Germans as good as the one our visitor thinks we should fire, hire 
them!" 



THE PALACE GUARD 241 

Ford got his list from Liebold from the first kindergarten of 
Froebel in 1837 to the first Christmas tree in America which the Ger 
man Imgards of Wooster, Ohio, made of a spruce in 1847 and for which 
the village smith fashioned a star and the family itself cut paper 
decorations; from Peter Henlein discovering the watch-spring in 1500 
and thus the first pocket watch, to Otto Lilienthal dying on his 2001 st 
glider flight the year Ford drove his first automobile; from Henry 
Stein way turning to piano-making after losing his eleven brothers in the 
Napoleonic wars, to Siemens and his pneumatic tube and Adantic 
cables and Behring and his diphtheria anti-toxin. They are all there in 
the tabulation Einstein, the 23-year-old examiner of patents at Berne 
when Ford started to build cars; Gelmo, the Viennese student, writing 
of sulfa thirty years before its curative value was discovered; Carl 
Hagenbeck, setting a pattern for world zoos; Gutenberg and the print 
ing press. Count Zeppelin taking his first airship aloft in 1900 and 
magically staying there twenty minutes; Zeiss and Bunsen and 
Roentgen and the vast rest. 

Secretary Liebold in the 33 years intervening between the uncon 
vincing false whiskers and the report on German accomplishments 
dipped into countless projects. He finished the erection, staffed and 
managed Henry Ford Hospital in the early days. He was active in the 
operation and sale of the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton, Ford's railroad. He 
bought for Ford mines, ships, power plants and forests, and he acquired 
thousands of acres of land. In those days of feverish acquisition it used to 
be said that farmers meeting on the road greeted each other with 
"Where are you going to sleep to-night?" 

He was in charge of a company housing development, managed 
the Dearborn Independent, Ford's international weekly, and was chief 
manipulator behind the scenes in the efforts to run Ford for the Presi 
dency of the United States. 

Portly, arbitrary, Liebold did not fraternize with his fellow 
executives outside the plant, drove an automobile as if every street was 
deserted, could tie on an apron and cook a splendid stag dinner, fished 
Colorado streams for trout, hardly could drag himself past a window 
containing a multitude of gadgets. He was an inexhaustible worker and 
omnivorous reader. When he tackled a project he waded into every book 
on the subject that he could get his hands on. He had strong ideas in 
many fields and they were no less strong because a field was strange to 
him. He spoke aspersingly of Jews but made it a point to call on Einstein 



242 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

in Berlin and in a letter to Ford's editor reported happily that the rela 
tivist had expressed himself "thoroughly in accord with Mr. Ford's 
views." What was meant by this was not made clear. 

If he had had his way no word of Ford would have been printed 
unless he had a chance to weigh and edit it. Reporters tried his soul It 
was mutual. No newspaperman ever gave him much of a break. They 
did not like being pushed around and they waited for him to stub his 

toe. 

Ford pointed a newsman's attention to several men at a drawing 
board in an upstairs room of the plant in the first war and to others 
tacking blue-prints on a wall. 

"What would you say that was?" he asked. 

"Could be a tank, couldn't it," die reporter asked after study. 

"That's JUST what it is a one-man tank." Ford bubbled with 
enthusiasm. "They'll go over Germany like a lot of ants." He wound 
up by giving his caller all the particulars. "Now," he said, "there's an 
exclusive story for you write what you want." 

The reporter's telephone rang as soon as the story appeared. 
Liebold exploded. He had not been consulted. 

"When you can talk as one gentleman to another, call me again," 
the usually quiet newsman said, and hung up. A moderated call came 
a half hour later. 

"Oh, you've been talking to Mr. Ford, Ernie, have you?" the 
newsman asked, a friend of Liebold's for years. 

"YesI flew off the handle." 

He was intensely active when Henry Ford Hospital was build 
ing and became a storm center as its imperious manager. Ford took over 
a half-built hospital and said to him, "Go ahead and finish it." He 
traveled the length of the land getting ideas. With a young draftsman 
at the plant he pushed walls of beaver board up and down the floor 
20 to 30 times until they decided they finally had the best arrangement 
to standardize. 

Liebold hired the personnel, raided Johns Hopkins for the 
nucleus of the professional staff, moved in. It was a closed hospital, 
one of the first in the Middle West, and old-line doctors bristled. The 
Detroit Academy of Surgeons declined to meet there in 1924 and the 
Wayne County Medical Society declared that Henry Ford's reputation, 
rather than that of the hospital, "attracted patients" and he was "prac 
ticing medicine by proxy." 



THE PALACE GUARD 243 

The society complained of so-called machine methods, that char 
ity work had decreased, of the uniform fee scale, the closed hospital 
system and "unethical" publicity. Ford supporters attributed much of 
the hostility to Ford's refusal to allow the hospital to collect larger 
fees from wealthy patients. 

"The business under the superintendency of a thoroughly trained 
man developed too slowly for Ford," the society protested. "He was let 
out and Ernest G. Liebold, Ford's secretary, became the guiding spirit. 
Business was not good and there was not enough zip. Ordinary equip 
ment such as an old-time stethoscope and microtome, found in any 
well conducted hospital, was glorified. The public's eyes began to bulge. 
The great Ford had manned his hospital with supreme genius and 
installed marvelous and intricate equipment.'* 

The hospital's surgeon-in-chief, who is still its celebrated surgeon- 
in-chief, offered the academy his resignation, said curtly that the growth 
of the hospital testified to the satisfaction of patients; a uniform fee 
scale had the same right to exist as a charity system or a scale fluctuating 
according to ability to pay; reported that ex-soldiers had been cared for 
the previous year at a cost of $125,000 to the hospital "If alleged appli 
cation of factory methods means thoroughness and completeness of 
history-making and physical examination by physicians and surgeons 
trained and experienced in the larger clinics of the United States and 
Europe, we plead guilty." He slid over the charge of unethical pub 
licity. But Ford, on the subject of doctors, said later that the profession 
made a fetish of withholding information that belonged to the public. 
"What would they say," he asked scornfully, "if industry said, 'Let the 
public find out what we have to offer if it can?' " As for medical jour 
nals he did not think the public could understand the language in which 
they were written. 

"I'm for telling people the latest proven method of medical treat 
ment and of the newest discoveries in words of one syllable," he said. 
"News of medical progress usually reaches the public only through 
gossip." I 

Ford said he was convinced a hospital could both serve and be 
self-supporting, but the hospital management testified in a damage suit 
in 1929 that the hospital had lost $4,000,000 since being founded and ran 
an annual deficit made up by the Ford family. 

Even the staff of the hospital winced privately over some of 
the ballyhoo for which they held Dearborn responsible. It was full of 



244 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

such meaty statements as "doors close without as much as a click, 
signals flash but are not heard, elevators glide up and down noiselessly 
and the noiseless typewriter is standard" and "a volume could be written 
on the X-ray department only" and how the hospital had a machine 
"by which the air a person breathes can be measured and analyzed 
and the exact amount of oxygen absorbed determined," how the beds 
were mounted on noiseless casters, and a tone of color had been intro 
duced on the walls "much more pleasing than the brilliant and monot 
onous white in customary hospital use." 

Good theatre went on daily before a personal secretary's eyes. 
No day was without its lesson. An early one was that Ford was mer 
curial. 

When earnings were running fabulously high in early days 
Couzens suggested that Ford deposit them in his bank and let them 
work still further for him. Ford agreed to freeze $12,000,000 across the 
street. 

' "We're going to build a tractor plant in Dearborn," he said a few 
weeks later to his secretary. "It may cost as much as $7,000,000. Get 
ready to take care of it." 

Liebold reminded him that he had agreed to let the $12,000,000 
in the Couzens bank stay there. Vigorously, Ford said he had not. 

"If so, Couzens put something over on me," he declared. "You get 
it I need it." 

The bank had to liquidate some investments fast to meet the un 
expected call. 

The motormaker was always bobbing up with novel ideas. Once 
he dug a hole in front of the factory. Couzens, returning from a business 
trip, found a steam shovel tearing the lawn open. He asked what was 
going on. 

"Have you been reading the papers, Jim?" Ford asked. 

The general manager nodded. Ford pushed some statements 
across the desk. 

"I read that money is going to be tight so I got the boys to get 
up those figures for me" he lowered his tone. "We've got $33,000,000 
around in the banks and I'm going to pull it in and put it down in that 
hole until the squall blows over." 

Couzens used the rest of the day convincing the head man that 
a corking way to insure panic would be to draw in the $33,000,000 and 



THE PALACE GUARD 245 

cache it underground, and the motormaker finally allowed himself to 
be persuaded. He had the hole filled in. 

He also stopped some digging in the same lawn when the office 
building went up. A tree was growing there and work was no more 
than started when he appeared at a construction shanty to express 
concern for its safety. The tree probably couldn't be saved, the con 
tractor remarked. 

"Then move the building back," Ford ordered. 

It went back five feet. New stakes were driven. He was back 
next day and told them to get some planking to put around the base. 
He remeasured the distance between the tree and the new building 
line. 

"Better move the building back a few more feet," he figured. 

When the building was up Ford decided the tree did not belong 
in the picture after all and he had it removed. 

Liebold reminisced across a luncheon table from me only a month 
or so before Ford's sudden death. 

"Spelled a word usually the way it sounded, read like a ten-year- 
old, but juggled figures like no other man," he said. He had watched 
day in, day out, year in, year out. "You never could tell how he was 
going to jump and he'd often tell you only 25 per cent sometimes of 
what he wanted, and expected you to fill in the rest. He was right 
80 per cent of the time when everybody told him he was wrong or 
whispered it behind his back." 

Suspicious at times, very trusting at others. The secretary asked 
him once if he always got the $200 put daily under his inkwell for small 
change and touches. Yes, he said vaguely, he guessed he did, but he 
followed it up in the next breath with a correction, thinking he had 
registered some doubt of the integrity of those about him. 

"Sure I do," he said, now with conviction. "Everyone around 
here is honest." 

Peculiar, too, was Ford's idea of rewards for good work done. 
Usually it meant merely the piling of more work on some of the men 
who most pleased him. There had been that electrical engineer who 
gave him a clock done to one-inch scale, a replica of a Ford magneto. 
Ford had beeii so delighted that for a month he had crowded so much 
work on the engineer he hardly had time to draw breath. Did not get 
anything more than the work, though. 



246 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Liebold harked back to the day in 1921 when Eastern banking 
interests knew Ford was short o Immediate cash and thought they 
had him boxed. They would make him a loan at a price. They would 
name the treasurer of the company. 

They telephoned Ford and got Liebold. Ford was across the desk. 

"Let *em come out," said Ford grimly, as the secretary held his 
hand over the transmitter. "I'm not going to borrow a cent from them 
but we'll get some experience." 

The subsequent parley on the loan was said to have consisted, on 
Ford's side, of four noes and one goodbye. 

The premiership of Liebold was nearing an end but he did not 
know it when he went to Europe in 1931 and chopped wood at Doorn 
with ex-Kaiser Wilhelm. He told of his royal host's intelligence, genial 
ity and informalism. He had been out himself at the woodpile that very 
morning, he wrote an American correspondent, and reported delight 
edly, "I chopped the biggest pile while the Kaiser operated a buzz-saw." 
He was bringing home an autographed colored photograph and he 
thought Mr. Ford would be interested in three sentences the emperor 
had written across its face. One was "Nothing is more likely to lead to 
war than the diplomatic and military over-organization of peace"; the 
second, "Nothing Is settled finally unless it is settled right," and lastly, 
"Socialism is the determination of the have-nots to take away the prop 
erty of the haves." 

Ford's secretary called the turn on the Second World War but 
several years prematurely. By the time he was ready to take off from 
Cologne for London, reports which he said had been given him in the 
"utmost confidence" had filled him with so many qualms that he looked 
uneasily behind as the train pulled dut to see if bombs were already 
falling on the bahnhof. 

His disheartening information, he wrote, was that Russia in 
tended to declare war on Poland the latter part of 1932; everybody in 
tended to see that French power was crushed for good; "the 100,000 
men Germany has and is allowed under the Versailles Treaty will fit 
very well into the Russian army as its officers"; and as soon as France 
moves, Italy will invade France from the south." Glumly he added, 
"The same old crowd is playing the same old game." 

"I can realize," he informed Dearborn, "that to anyone in the 
United States this may sound like an idle dream, and if the many 
things I have observed and the voluminous stories I have been told did 



THE PALACE GUARD 247 

not point so definitely In this direction I would hesitate to write you 
at such length. That a war In Europe is bound to occur within two 
years Is the opinion of many I have met." 

Liebold's power began to fade about three-fourths through his 
tenure. In the panicky days and nights following the closing of Michi 
gan banks by a governor's order in 1933, the secretary was an exhaust- 
less go-between. There was an offer by the Fords to set up a new bank. 
Behind the scenes he represented them in discussions. If he didn't speak 
for them, he was at the elbow of father or son. Some said Liebold saw 
In the emergency a golden chance to become a power in Detroit finance 
If the plan of a Ford bank materialized, and that what happened later 
did so when he learned his dream had no chance of success. 

He slept an hour and a half a night and something cracked. 
He needed sleep he needed it badly. He walked out of his office one 
morning at n, disappeared and became the afternoon five-star principal 
in a state-wide police search. 

The secretary had started for home in his car, but home meant 
only more telephone calls, more, people on the doorstep. He went there 
anyway. He stopped In the drive, packed a bag, headed north. He 
would go to a friend's home and hole in, but the friend was out and 
the secretary woke up in a hotel in Traverse City, Mich., seventeen hours 
later, registered under an assumed name. He telephoned the company 
where he was, had something to eat, went to bed again. 

Liebold's importance at Dearborn shrank after that. Frank Camp- 
sail, another secretary to whom Ford was attached, had offered his 
resignation several years before and reported he and Liebold couldn't 
seem to hit it off. The motormaker set up a separate office for the man 
who wanted to resign and increased his duties. As one's power thinned 
the other's expanded. Campsall died in Ford's arms at the motormaker's 
Georgia estate in 1946. 

Counsel for Ford and the treasurer of the company walked into 
Liebold's office in 1944 and placed on his desk a revocation signed by 
Mr. and Mrs. Ford of his power of attorney. They asked for his res 
ignation and his keys. 

"Mr. Ford will have to tell me this direct," said the veteran sec 
retary. "No one else will do." 

He walked over to a coat-rack, put on his hat, left and never 
heard from Ford again. 

, In prohibition days Ford posted a plant bulletin which said, "Any - 



248 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

man with the odor of beer, wine or other liquor on his breath will be 
discharged and there will be no appeal/' and the ukase took the liberty 
of promising the same treatment to any Ford workman having in 
toxicants in his home or on his person. 

He added to the wisdom of the times by saying that liquor was 
the cause of war "it made the wine-drinking French and the beer- 
drinking Germans suspicious of each other" called on the Army and 
Navy to enforce the Volstead Act instead of going on practice cruises 
and maintaining their social positions at posts miles from nowhere, 
promised to give up manufacturing if liquor was restored to legal status 
and in the same breath said that there was no more chance of re- 
scindment than of slavery returning. He also thought there were better 
ways to use alcohol than to drink it. 

But to his heart he hugged two enchanting pixies, once in high 
executive position, who seceded from the United States on the tem 
perance issue. They were drinkers in the lost week-end mold and he 
their forbearing shepherd. Whatever he might say on the public rostrum 
or to the unfamiliar thousands out in the big plant whom he simply 
hired to do a job, these two were his darlings and "sick men, really,'* 
he seemed to say; "I must look after them as they would look after me 
if I was sick." 

The service department got word to station a car near the resi 
dence of one ? a brilliant figure, and report how liquor was being run 
into the house. Hourly the spotters were supplied with automobiles of 
different colors to reduce their conspicuousness and to allay the sus 
picions of anyone who might look out a window and mistrust an over- 
long parked car. 

A black job would do for an hour or two. Then a maroon or blue 
or green car would drive past, the watchers* would follow around a 
corner and transfer to it; and they would then resume their watch. 
They were not to molest anyone; they were merely to learn who was 
delivering liquor, and if the occupant of the house emerged, they were 
to follow and see that no harm came to him. 

This espionage came in time- to be not without danger. The 
switch of cars was a transparent ruse. The householder bought an air- 
rifle and on nights when he was especially discomposed at sight of 
sentries he shot at them from the ambush of an upstairs window and 
some of the Ford plant protection people were periodically reported as 



THE PALACE GUARD 249 

picking BB shot out of their hides. The lazy fun of sitting in an auto 
mobile of an evening and reporting on liquor movements naturally 
went off the list of pleasant details when lead began to sail. 

About dusk, at length, a man with a burlap bag who was first 
mistaken for a gardener slipped around to a back entrance and was 
admitted. When an hour passed and he did not emerge, the Ford police 
grew suspicious. Here probably was how the alcohol was being re 
plenished. The private cops settled back to tackle the messenger on the 
way out. At midnight a large car shot out the drive with the house 
holder and the "gardener" and headed for the open road. 

The spotters tore after it fast, but the test was unfair. The large 
car could do 100 to the Ford's 70. The driver of the big car, humming 
along easily at lower speed, did the unexpected, however, when he 
looked in his rear-view mirror and saw a trailing auto hard on his 
bumper he put on his brakes without warning and screeched to a quick 
stop. The Ford taken aback by the stratagem, swung to a parallel lane 
and bounded past so that in an instant the situation was reversed the 
pursuer became the pursued. 

Mad over this proof that the company was set upon destroying 
a promising evening, the owner of the big car began to chase the Ford, 
crawling closer and closer though the service car tried to throw him 
off by dimming out. The protection men had no wish to be caught. 
The executive probably would hand them over to the regular police 
on some trumped-up charge and while this could be fixed, the man 
they were trailing would be on his way meantime and the trail would 
be cold by the time they were released. 

The Ford swung suddenly from the main artery to a road into 
a woods; the big car shot by, apparently unaware that the small one 
had taken the side road. Back in the orthodox position of the pursuer 
again, the small car backed out on the main highway and picked up 
some distant red tail-lights. They could only race along in the hope that 
they were those of the quarry. 

Two miles farther, the Ford came upon the big car in front of a 
lunchroom. The fugitive executive sat drinking a cup of coffee and 
staring vacantly. He was quiet until he finished when he began to 
pound with his knuckles the planking in front of him. 

"Do you know what I think of Henry Ford?" he addressed his 
limited audience of one counter man and two plant policemen. He did 



250 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

not wait for an answer, he peeled off a ten-minute Philippic about 
Mr. Ford and all his works and it continued witheringly until the 
local chief of police walked in and hung up his cap, as innocently 
as though he had accidentally dropped by for a bite and had not been 
notified that the runaway presumably was at this particular restaurant 
and his chore was to get him home without publicity or injury. 

"Why, hello!" the chief said, cheerily, as if this was a happy 
surprise. 

The executive did not answer he curled his lip. The gendarme's 
appearances in his life were too opportune to be accidental. This was 
Mr. Ford's work. When the world was taking on a lovely cerulean, 
the omnipresent copper always seemed to bob up through a trapdoor 
and say "Hello, there," with that bogus ring of geniality in his voice. 

He'd tell off interfering Mr. Ford one of these days to his face. 
He said so very solemnly, or the Mr. Hyde in him did, and as Mr. Hyde 
he meant every word of it. He would do nothing of the kind, of course, 
but in this mood it pleased him to talk big of rebellion as if nothing 
would stay him from giving Mr. Ford a good piece of his mind. Actu 
ally he knew he would go home with the chief, and as Dr. Jekyll he 
would frown upon any rash insubordination and the next morning 
he would be back at his desk nodding approvingly over some 
statement of Mr. Ford and gravely supplying statistics to prove that 
Mr. Ford was absolutely right in what he said of the horrors of 
immoderation. 

In the end he would go home with Brooks. The Federal authori 
ties took care of the "gardener" and the bottles he had not gotten 
around to deliver. A whole month would pass before the service de 
partment would get word to spot a car near the residence of the prob 
lem executive and find out who was running liquor into the house. 
The detail assigned to watch put on its steel vests and wondered if the 
air-rifle was in good working order. They started off in a green car 
and a maroon car relieved them. It would be a re-run of the old film. 

No less in favor was a man of endearing bonhomie who was a 
master salesman and discriminating adviser who punctuated about 
every ten words of what he said with the initials "J-C," meaning Jesus 
Christ. If he even expressed himself on the weather, he would say, 
"J.C.j it's hot" or "J-G, I'm freezing." He drank in the grand manner 
and ate always as a man might who had been subsisting for months 



THE PALACE GUARD 251 

on K-rations on an Isolated reef. Even as Mr. Ford's luncheon guest 
he had four sugars In his coffee and three desserts if he felt that way. 

Ford had a theory that a man who ate right thought right, and 
thinking right, would naturally turn his back on liquor. He became 
interested in a Chicago food specialist who talked up a balanced diet 
as a magical cure-all. The treatment was strenuous purgatives for 
about a week and after that the reconstruction. For a long time he tried 
to gentle his unruly wards into yielding to treatment. One resisted to 
the end; the "J.C." man said yes, eventually, but he was a drawn figure 
when he returned. 

He had lost a few pounds, his skin seemed a shade healthier, but 
his whispered reminiscences suggested a stay in Dachau. For Ford he 
had nothing but words of contrition and regret that he had not under 
gone the wonderful experiment earlier. At first Ford thought of chal 
lenging him to a foot-race for proof or of taking him over to the village 
and see if he could chin himself on that maple where Ford used to do 
the trick himself, but on second thought he felt he better not. 

"Did you a lot of good, eh?" he contented himself by saying. 

"Feel like a new man," the patient declared. 

Ford thought he might have achieved a miracle with this pleas 
ing rascal but he doubted it. He parted with the revivified executive, 
and the latter went off with friends to whom he could speak frankly. 
How was the treatment? How did he honestly feel? 

"J.C., it was awful," he broke down. "They fed me more castor 
oil than Mussolini has in Italy." He peered about as if expecting Ford 
to spring from behind a bush. "For a week I drank nothing but water." 
One knew this to be tops in torment. "If I ever get away from here " he 
whispered^ and then stopped dead as if he realized he had better not 
profane the Dearborn campus by mention of the holiday he was con 
sidering. He left for his home station and a friend was glad some time 
later to get a cryptic post card. 

"Have changed treatments," it read. "Got three cases of McCal- 
lum's castor oil, bonded, the other day." 



The cause ever just, a bril 
liant ^mentor takes a chamois 
and burnishes the crown, re 
sets the jewels as they occa 
sionally work loose. 



CHAPTER XVI 
THE TORCH-BEARER 



IF AN American League infielder had not stolen home in a game 
between Detroit and Cleveland Henry Ford might have been 
quite different in the public eye from what he was. 
The runner was on third, a weak hitter up. A newspaper 
editor in the press-box thought the situation might do for an inspira 
tional essay. Yes, he decided, he would say something of the shallowness 
of getting to third and dying there. Three-quarter runs are not marked 
on the score-board. Third base is merely opportunity, not arrival. The 
world is full of third bases. Once home, of course, no one can take away 
tie glory. That sort of thing not bad, he thought, not bad at all with 
elaboration. 

In the midst of the soliloquy the man at third, with a good lead 
off the bag on a left-handed pitcher who was facing first too carelessly, 
broke for the plate and slid away from the catcher's tag in the cus 
tomary dust, acrobatics and glitter of high-flung spikes. 

The editor put copy paper in his typewriter as soon as he got 
to the office but in the quiet of his room the plotted piece did not 
come as easy as he thought it would. He wrote a paragraph or two, 
tore the paper from the rollers, wadded it, tossed it into the basket. 
Eventually he admitted himself licked and walked into a neighboring 
office and said: "Billy, see what you can do with this, will you? The 
thought seems okay to me but I can't make it sing." 

Pep-talk admirers had not been so exalted since Elbert Hubbard's 
message to Garcia. "Don't Die on Third" was reprinted by millions 

252 



THE TORCH-BEARER 253 

and reprints are still maintained to service a scattered demand. The 
author was Canadian-born William John Cameron, who was to become 
Ford's editor, privy counsellor, vendor of alarums, tailor of silver linings 
and accomplished public relations adviser who always and angrily de 
nied he was any such thing and who wrote for Ford, or steered for him, 
many an article assigned to the motormaker which Ford never even 
read as Cameron had ghosted long before for another editor a baseball 
play he never saw. 

With one hand he tied Ford in with the company as generalis 
simo of all its many feats; with the other he severed him from respon 
sibility if hell broke loose, so that the public inclined to say 
that Ford was often the Innocent tool of bad men who somehow had 
gotten on his payroll and were doing things he did not know about 
and would not countenance if he did know. 

Fortune conducted a poll in 1937. It asked two questions: 

1. Can you think of any well-known men in industry or business 
of whom you approve? Of whom you disapprove? 

2. What corporation do you approve? Disapprove? 

Ford topped the list of favored employers with 60.6 per cent of 
the vote. But while he could preen himself on a whopping lead and 
the company won enough ballots to land on top, it was significant that 
only 20.4 per cent expressed approval of the company as against the 
heavy percentage applauding its founder. 

At the time the base-runner stole home in 1909 Cameron was 
writing a column for the Detroit News under the caption "Reflections" 
and contemporaries recall he could beat out a piece about a falling 
autumn leaf which would bring tears to the eyes of every woman in 
town. His moralizing in "Don't Die on Third," in fact, resulted in a 
few wet eyes in the bleachers, albeit for other causes. 

"All the world is a diamond," he wrote. "You are one of the 
players. Perhaps you have reached first by your own efforts. You get 
to second on the sacrifices of parents and friends. Then," he labored, 
" on someone's long fly into the business world or someone's fluke 
on the rules of simple morality and square dealing, you have attained 
third. At third you are to be reckoned with. Your opponents converge 
all their attention on you. From third you become a splendid success 
or a dismal failure. DON'T die there!" 

He got to real pedaling here: 



254 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"What are you doing to win the score life is ready to mark 
opposite your name? Third base has no laurels on which you can rest. 
Are you waiting for someone to bat you in? If he misses, the miss is 
yours. If you place all your dependence on someone else, his failure 
is yours. What are you doing there waiting for something to turn up? 
The Detroit base-runner would not have scored if he had waited for 
the next batter to hit the ball, and that run was absolutely necessary 
to win the game. That run was gained in unmeasurable time, but 
the difference between success and failure is often counted in seconds." 

And then the final hard ball, letter high: 

"Had the base-runner been out the night before he would have 
played the game according to routine, but he doesn't carouse. He does 
not smoke or drink. He is old fashioned enough to go to church on 
Sunday. A clean life means a clear head. Legs that tread the path^ff 
irregularity cannot win in 90 feet against a swift ball that travels 60. 
Only a trained body and an alert mind could have stolen home. Work 
itself is a game and has its rules and sudden openings. Study condi 
tions! Postpone thinking of luck until you hear the umpire call 'Safe!* " 

Some bawdy comment may have smoked up the clubhouse of 
Hughey Jennings* spike-throwing Tigers when they read of such a 
model in their midst. The bleachers may have had something to say 
of the unique theory that churchgoing had some relationship to a steal 
of home, but editorial writers do not have to take the witness stand and 
offer proof, and, anyway, the language of the editorial always was being 
reframed in later years. 

On the radio twenty years later as Ford spokesman, Cameron, 
Class of '36, deleted and amended the work of Cameron, Class of '09. 
He did not refer to the hero's teetotalism and church attendance 
and one assumed Cameron may have come around to the idea that a ball 
player might miss Sunday-school and still get a corner of the plate 
sliding in. Originally he said it was the ninth inning, two out, and the 
run won the game. Actually it was the fourth inning and the run tied 
the score. It made one wonder a little if there also was literary license in 
the editor's representations as Ford's spokesman. 

Billy Cameron went to a collegiate school, and for a short time to 
Toronto University, but quit at 19 and said in after years he educated 
himself by wide reading. Curiously, in view of his own experience, he 
lamented on the air "the bookish ideal which many called learning." 



THE TORCH-BEARER 255 

"To know what men had written, to read what could be read in 
libraries, was to be a learned man it used to be the white-collar 
fashion," was the way he put it, a little witheringly and with perhaps 
a peek out the corner of one eye at Ford. 

The point he made was that in an early misguided time "a race 
of heroes was being born not of books but of Experience's vital touch 
the manufacturer who makes some commodity that refines daily life 
and its range." 

But did Carlyle and Emerson make heroes of such? No, no, he 
said they, like the others, stuck to prophets and poets and warrior kings, 
so what Carlyle and Emerson did not do, Cameron did not fail at, and 
he proved himself an adept carpenter. He toiled for, and believed in, a 
hero of giant frame and as large ideas. 

He became a railroad timekeeper first. Later a letter to an editor 
elicited an invitation to call but not to burn his bridges behind him. 
Cameron burned them anyway, quit keeping time, joined the paper, 
stayed on. He always thought that, in justice to the ministry, the story 
that he once filled a Brooklyn, Mich., pulpit should be taken out of 
circulation. He described himself, at 19, as merely a half-baked icono 
clast who drank in Robert Ingersoll and William Jennings Bryan and 
was caught up in the liberal ferment of the times. 

To have a gun to shoot when he was shot at, Ford paid $1,000 
for a small-town paper and engaged an editor who begged Cameron 
to come to Dearborn. The editor was E. G. Pipp, a Detroiter. He quit 
Ford in 1920 and Cameron took over. 

Presses were hard to find when World War I ended. Pipp located 
second-hand one. Parts were missing and the base was cracked. "We'll 
make the repairs. Go ahead and buy it," said Ford. If It couldn't be 
fixed, it always could be fed to the cupolas and the metal made into 
tractors. 

Pipp found men taking down the press one morning when only 
the day before it had seemed almost ready for a first run. He wanted to 
know who ordered the dismantling. 

"Mr. Ford wants the wheels polished," the men said. 

If they were polished, it would be possible to tell if any were 
cracked. Besides, said Publisher Ford, what man would keep a machine 
clean that wasn't clean to start? Better late the issue than dirty the tools 
that brought it forth. 



256 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

He asked a veteran magazine representative how to make a go 
of his paper. If he wanted the best magazine, he should get the best 
writers. Who, for instance? Wells, Shaw, Kipling, Galsworthy. He 
could have the very best magazine in Christendom for $30,000 an issue. 

"I say 'Rats!' " Ford told his editors. "How have those fellows 
made their reputations? By writing for national magazines. We're 
going to publish a national magazine, aren't we? If you write for it 
you'll be famous also. Go ahead and write it." 

His staff felt it wasn't quite as elementary as that, but the first issue 
appeared in January of 1919. No advertising was accepted. Contributors 
got as high as $1000 an article, although standard rate was about half 
of that. Some names were bought Walpole, Sandburg, Robert Frost. 
The paper was dedicated to "The Neglected Truth," and a cynical 
columnist, wooed to Dearborn by illusion of riches and pleasantly given 
to hearty guzzling, called it "the best God damned paper ever pub 
lished in a tractor factory." 

Men who worked on the paper in those days say Ford had an 
idea at one time of getting it out on the assembly line principle a long 
table of typewriters manned by the staff. . . . Tarsney putting in the 
woman-reader stuff . . . Bradner dropping in some humor . . . Martin 
inserting news, as the story passed from hand to hand. An editor is said 
to have forestalled the experiment by convincing their employer that the 
magazine, not the individual story, was the unit that the paper could 
be assembled, not the story. 

Certainly it was the only paper whose publisher ever ran down a 
public street after an employee to apologize for an affront and ask 
him to come back. Ford also was, in all likelihood, the only news 
paper owner to pay $100,000 for a tunnel by which to bring paper to 
his presses, so his engineers in the same building, would not catch cold.. 

The editor involved, now a member of the University of Arizona 
faculty, was let out by Ford's business secretary who was also the paper's 
general manager. He notified the secretary he was resigning and would 
leave at the end of the month. Presumably for the effrontery he was 
told he was through right then. 

The writer recounted the incident to Cameron and said he'd be- 
on his way as soon as he cashed his company savings certificates. Cam 
eron told Ford. By this time the ex-employee had collected the money 
due him and was off to get himself a tonic at a nearby soft-drink stand 



THE TORCH-BEARER 257 

down the street. He was Hearing It when he heard a shout behind 
him. A sprinting messenger was calling. Ford would like to see him. 
The two heard a second shout and looking about saw a hatless Ford 
bearing down at a gallop. He took the writer by the elbow. He'd just 
heard, he said, what had happened. 

"The general manager will see you in his office and apologize.," 
he promised. 

He said he hoped the writer would change his mind about leav 
ing and, anyway, he was to stay as long as he liked. The reinstated 
worker's phone rang a few minutes after he reached his office, warm 
inside and comfortable at what had occurred. Would he step into the 
manager's office? The apology was un watered. 

"Mr. Ford says I made a mistake in firing you. He says I am to 
apologize. What he tells me to do I do. Therefore, I apologize." The 
words clipped off as if the manager was shearing nails. The staff mem 
ber stayed on and quit in a month, but he never lost his place among 
Ford's friends and returned often to talk with him. 

Twenty-five years later he was managing editor o a large met 
ropolitan newspaper when Ford fired the factotum who had fired him. 
He pulled up his typewriter and with pleasure batted out the obituary. 
Ford read it and smiled broadly. 

Til bet Martin got a lot of fun out of writing that," he remarked 
to one of his executives. "He has been waiting 20 years for the chance." 

The master of Dearborn had a theory that it was often as well to 
give a task to someone utterly unfamiliar with it and therefore without 
set brain patterns. He had an instinctive preference for the amateur. 
Give a fellow a job who knew all about what he had to do and he 
would be boxed by that knowledge and wouldn't jump a fence to try 
something new. 

In deciding to build his engineering laboratory he wheeled on an 
executive who already had his fingers in three enterprises and did not 
know a single thing about floor layout. 

"I want you to make the floor plans and fit the engineering de 
partments and the magazine printing plant into them," he said. He 
offered no suggestions. 

The uneasy official hunted up some other executives of more 
experience and also the architect. 

"Don't worry we'll show you how," said Albert Kahn, architect 



258 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

of most Ford buildings and always cooperative. "You can help by seeing 
heads of departments." Kahn itemized what he thought could be done. 
"Tact and diplomacy, you know! Get everyone satisfied. You know how 
it is everybody will want the best light and the best position." 

The executive began to breathe again. He waylaid a layout man. 
The building went up a $2,000,000 trinket. Two huge sliding doors 
worked by motor and push-button closed and opened the north end. 
Railroad tracks were run in. 

"I want a place where I can build a pin or a railroad locomotive/' 
Ford had said, in planning the building. Well, there it was for him, 
finally with a craneway when he wanted to work on a locomotive and 
arrangements for a fifty-ton crane if and when he wanted to use it. The 
doors opened wide enough that freight cars could be backed in and 
the paper tonnage unloaded for the magazine, but the place was hardly 
open a week when engineers complained of the cold drafts and a spokes 
man for them told Ford that everyone would die of pneumonia. 

They were open at the moment and Ford went out in the im 
mense main room to see for himself. 

"Pretty bad/' he agreed, and shivered in the drafts. TU see to it." 

He dropped in on the layout amateur and said to get the railroad 
track out and keep those doors closed. 

"But how are we going to get our heavy paper requirements into 
the place?" the upset tyro asked. 

"That's your problem you solve it!" Ford was out and off on 
another errand. Everybody, he said, wduld be down with colds under 
the system as it was. 

The man who had been directed to seal the doors permanently 
walked about in a bit of a daze until someone told him to talk to a 
fellow at the Highland Park plant who was a genius at conveyors and 
who might have a solution. He could not ee any way himself to get 
the sizable rolls of paper stock into the place unless they were passed 
throtjgh an open window. 

"Don't worry" the man who knew all about conveyors bubbled 
with assurance "111 be out there tomorrow and maybe I'll get an idea." 

At the railroad siding an elevator was built which rose to the 
level of a box-car floor and descended to a tunnel and conveyor which 
ran under the north wall of the laboratory. By such steps the paper 
supply could be rolled off the car to the elevator, dropped down to the 



THE TORCH-BEARER 259 

conveyor and run through the tunnel to storage in the basement. It was 
a six-figure job but no one caught cold at least for that reason. The 
craneway stood idle for years, but on the whole Ford was delighted. 
The whole layout was one more proof of an amateur's invincibility. 

Cameron, the editor, was literate, genial, positive. Others might 
have an idea his steamer-chair rested on a rising and falling deck, but 
he did not seem to mind the roll. He was spectacled, round-faced, 
unathletic and had an astonishing gift for digging up a plausible answer 
to almost any question. It might not be an answer according to your 
lights, but it sounded always like a reasonable one. 

He gave Ford's page in the weekly a gusset of scholarship. He 
attributed to his employer a philosophy of sustained rectitude and he 
built up in the public mind if extra build-up was necessary a Henry 
Ford who was a minglement of most of the virtues of all who had 
known glory. When, as broadcaster, his voice shut off after his weekly 
six-minute stint, there had been such calm and righteousness and 
certainty in it that one wondered why all the clashing elements were 
not immediately drawn into brotherhood, so clearly had Ford, by proxy, 
switched his road lights on the only path. 

It is not uncommon for a man of highly specialized knowledge 
to put erudition on his payroll; it is rarer for one to get an aposde 
so convinced of the paymaster's primacy. Ivy Lee doled out shining 
dimes for Rockefeller senior. Cameron bore a basket of words, like 
daisies, and scattered them in praise of Ford the elder. He was Ford's 
indefatigable Peter, and, in less fortunate moments, he seemed to be 
Ford's Patsy, uncomplainingly confessing the arson, himself, when the 
employer lit a fire too hot and retired to some shade until the heat 
abated. 

The joy balanced the grief without question, for when the editor 
retired at sixty-seven, Cameron still said that other men dwindled in 
size when Ford entered a room and that he was strong medicine for 
lesser men to swallow. 

Cameron liked a joke but seldom told a gusty one. He accused 
newsmen of nursing what he called "the downtown viewpoint." They 
forgot, he lectured, that the world was not made up entirely of abnormal 
and subnormal people who were always getting into print. In a re 
porter's hunt for the bizarre, he insisted, he overlooked the homebodies 
who never were in the newspapers, and did not want to be, and who. 



260 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

took care of their larkspur and peonies and talked to neighbors over the 
back fence and were America's backbone. You had an idea at times he 
thought most of these people lived in the country. 

He was an attentive listener, an insatiable reader. The two 
libraries in his home bulged with volumes in intriguing disorder, books 
squeezed in everywhere, jacketed, out of their wraps, some bindings 
worn thin, ancients and moderns, incunabula to detective fiction writ 
ten by his son, a quiet devil who in his youth looked every inch a 
seraph. His father shuddered slightly as his distressed eye ranged 
lightly over such titles as Murders Coming and Grave Without Grass, 
and said he wished Donald had attempted a little more serious work. 

You wanted to talk to Mr. Ford, eh? Very well, see Mr. Cameron! 
If the latter did not think you were entitled to take up any of Ford's 
crowded time, you did not take it up, unless you encountered the 
motormaker by accident in the corridor; and then Ford was likely to 
lean his back against a paneled wall, slip the halter and talk at length 
and at random. Cameron fretted at such times, in the last office down 
the hall on the left, and hoped the boss was staying on the preserve 
and not luxuriating in offhand shockers such as the one that the 
average pay of an American worker would be $27 a day in 1950, or that 
cows would be extinct in another ten years. 

When Ford went to Washington to see Presidents, the editor 
went along. When touring bigwigs visited Dearborn, the editor sat 
quietly in a corner and chipped in words at appropriate moments. 
What Ford said -was gospel; Cameron grew strident only when anyone 
hinted that any word of it might be wrong or outdated or had a worn- 
out bearing. He was also pretty hurt when Ford announced he would 
give $100,000,000 to American education, and an acidulous editor said 
"It would be nice to have that much to spend on him." If Ford was 
inconsistent, to Cameron he was "gloriously inconsistent." Ford was "a 
wondrous seer." 

"Mrs. Ford was telling me," he offered as an example, "of a day 
she and Ford were walking in New York in 1902, when there was only 
a handful of automobiles' in the United States. They had turned off 
Fifth Avenue and Mr. Ford suddenly said to her: 'Strange thing, 
Gallic, but back there just a moment ago I imagined I saw four lines 
of horseless carriages.'" 

He would say that if you got Mr. Ford's words they resembled 



THE TORCH-BEARER 261 

strokes of a hammer; that it was natural for Ford to ; 
out cows: he had helped bring about a 
Mr. Ford took no one's advice unless it was 
an employee what he thought to find how 

He smiled, in the manner of a tolerant^ 
that he could rid his orchard of bugs wit 
motormaker held for a long time, were 
and would take care of any that might plagk 
seemed to be that the birds had lighted on 
they were suspicious of what they might find i 
that Ford trusted to them and not to 
failed him. He turned to spray in the end.j? 

Cameron's voice rang out in inte 
from rooftop and press-box, on many H 
microphones. He often brought splendent 
ment to hokum, a strong solvent to any | 
the Ford philosophy or be imputed 
staunchly that the company had no pubii 

a company had honest management and pilose anj|lne determina 
tion to give the best value, the public wotda s be^l^to distinguish 
between it and a company more eager to sell than to |p ve. 

"The best public relations man any businesslkould have," he 
proclaimed, spurning the label for himself and gettMg\in a lick for 
his employer, "is the head of a business who is determii^mat equitable 
principles shall prevail" 

Actually, one got little at times of Ford's meaning JMben he was 
talking in disengaged fragments. Cameron would putt/ up the holes 
and gild the rough sentence. An able friend analyzed these gaps. 
Ford would make a basic statement. Let us call that A. 'Then he in 
stinctively sensed what your probable response would be. This was 
statement B. To that response, in normal exchange, he would have 
said C and you D, and he would then make statement E. Knowing 
the three steps by which E would be reached, Ford would skip B, C and 
D and go to E himself, bewildering a listener by the leap. Ford now 
would be answering something the listener meant to ask him only after 
a couple of intervening questions he was not given chance to ask. These 
were statements B and D, which Ford struck out. What you had in 
your hands at the finish was a cable in skeleton. 




262 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Three miles separate Dearborn and the Rouge plant. At the one, 
they waltzed ceremoniously to dulcimer and vibraphone; at the other, 
they danced to an elaborate system of espionage before Ford's grand 
sons took over. At Dearborn, Cameron played lulling and lofty tunes 
in Ford's honor; at the Rouge, Bennett played a rougher hurdy-gurdy, 
harsher melodies and implanted fear in workers. At Dearborn, Ford 
had his cake; at the Rouge he ate it, refuting the crusted adage that one 
could not do both at once. 

Cameron assailed totalitarianism and bespoke an economy "where 
every man shall sit under his own fig-tree, none daring to make him 
afraid." The most obscure person in America, he was proud to say, 
might criticize public policy without fear of spies or secret police. 
The totalitarian state "measures its strength by the depth of its people's 
docility, dictating what they shall believe, what they shall read, hear 
or speak." 

At the Rouge, Bennett planted agents at union meetings, wrote 
down the names of the "disloyal," and saw to it that the boys in the 
plant did not sit under any fig-tree proclaiming their freedom, or get 
any silly notions from such bosh as the Wagner Act. The totalitarianism 
within the walls was close riveted. 

The editor looked over minutely, toned down, brushed up and 
hunted error in thousands of manuscripts in which Ford was directly 
quoted, on the understanding they would be submitted for check in 
advance of publication. Naturally, thousands of stories about Ford ap 
peared without this sluicing, but untold copy went to Cameron for 
okay. 

The editor was three persons. One-third of him never left the 
conviviality of the newspaper city room. One-third was in the pulpit. 
The last third sat at a walnut desk in the engineering laboratory 
sculpting his Pygmalion, but he never seemed completely pleased for 
long with any one of the three roles. When the displeasure boiled over 
he disappeared, an incurable rebel against the rnachine-like schedule 
about him. 

That he reached the big-income brackets was not enough. He 
would tire of saying 'What Mr. Ford means" or of trying to mix his 
own three personalities into a satisfied whole. Failing, he would stack 
his papers neatly on the desk and vanish, and all information available 
was that he was not there, which you could see for yourself, of course. 



THE TORCH-BEARER 263 

A triple personality paste-up made for a mean problem, for 
you would be talking to the old newspaperman and suddenly sense 
he had gone, and the pulpiteer had taken his place; and then as quickly 
he would switch and be the mirror of Ford. It was troublesome keep 
ing track of when he was Jehovah, Jehovah's Witness or just a fellow 
oif the police beat such as one might meet in front of any newspaper 
cashier's cage trying to wheedle a little advance money. He livened up 
perceptibly when the press crowded his office. They were a link with 
his salad days. 

Whatever it was made Ford forgiving of a subordinate who stuck 
out a tongue at the general regimentation, you would walk in one 
morning into the end room which had been empty, perhaps, for, a 
spell, and at his typewriter and peering blandly over his glasses would 
be the editor polishing off a sermonette full of good solid things such 
as "Mr. Ford regards money as of no account, its function being merely 
to move goods from man to man as a postage stamp carries a 
letter" or "Mr. Ford absolutely rejects the theory that wages 
must be kept down or, if they rise, must be recaptured by higher 
prices." 

If Cameron was not stretching it, his was an unparalleled in 
dependence. He said he never was told what to say over the radio before 
he said it, and never was criticized by Ford after a broadcast for what 
he did say. As editor of the Independent he professed an equal free 
dom. 

Opposing counsel in a $1,000,000 suit filed against Ford by Aaron 
Sapiro, organizer of farm cooperatives, tried to show Ford's acquaint 
ance with the articles containing the claimed libel. Cameron could not 
remember any discussion of the paper's policies with Ford, except in the 
"most general way," and said he could not recall any discussion unless 
it was "when we differed from him and gave him our reasons." He was 
asked for a little illustration. 

"Well, Mr. Ford is against war, of course, but the paper stands 
for preparedness," he said. "He permits us to do so," he hurried to say, 
"although he would like to see war abolished." 

Secondly, while Ford looked on the Russian people with leniency, 
the paper was opposed to Bolshevism, Cameron said. 

"Mr. Ford favors the Soviet then?" Sapiro's counsel saw an 
opening. 



264 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"Oh, no," Cameron corrected, "but he does not feel as strongly 
on the matter as we do." 

The editor asked the court to believe that on two major policies 
such as these Ford paid his editor to say things in his columns with 
which he strongly disagreed. 

"Did you ever seek to learn his position toward the attitude o 
the Dearborn Independent on public questions?" 

"Well, the attitude of the Independent was taken beforehand," 
the editor insisted. 

None of the matter pertaining to material handled by the edi 
torial department went to Ford. The manufacturer would drop into 
the magazine's office, the witness said, sometimes not once a week, 
sometimes once a day. What did they talk about ordinarily ? Oh, some 
thing that had appeared in the daily press, possibly something about 
Ford's interest in farming. He assured the court he did not talk over 
with Ford the attitude of the publisher on public questions. He simply 
used such visits .to "get his thought, his philosophy." 

"We are to understand then" the lawyer grew ironical "that 
you have no recollection of time, occasion or person with whom you first 
discussed publication of any articles dealing with certain Jews?" 

Cameron said he had tried to discuss things with Ford but he 
just would not talk about them. In his presence Ford never had even 
read the Independent. The editor said he tried to get him to, but he 
could not recall he ever succeeded. 

"He must have read it some place else, if at all," he suggested, 
dolefully and a little unhelpfully. 

When an inimical lawyer pinned him down and an embarrassing 
question had to be answered Cameron never involved Ford. No lawyer 
ever quite succeeded in getting from him a damning admission. The 
editor was never fooled as to what effect a "yes" or "no" at the wrong 
spot might have on the fortunes of the case. 

Across his desk he would peer owlishly at you and say : 

"Mr. Ford still believes at is early morning in America and there 
are fifty opportunities for every one when he was young. 

"Mr. Ford says if you start a thing, you ought to finish it. It is 
always too soon to quit. The thrill and interest of making the first car 
evaporated one day. Mr. Ford said he had gone far enough to see how 
he could build the second car. The glowing new vision got in his way. 



THE TORCH-BEARER 265 

"Some untaught wisdom," the editor would philosophize, "must 
have forced him on, and soon he was learning more and more about 
his second car by going on with his first." 

Had Ford yielded, the editor was sure he might never have fin 
ished that second car. 

"Mr. Ford says that with many people the line from the eye or 
ear runs straight to the mouth or pen, with no interval for digestion or 
judgment. With others it goes back to the brain where the harvest of 
eye or ear is analyzed and weighed and only then, if then, does the 
line proceed to the organs of speech and writing. 

"In Mr. Ford's opinion many men do not know that yesterday 
is past and still make up their minds with last year's ideas." 

The Journal of Neglected Truth sank without trace the last day 
of 1927 except for an oily slick of a bias it had spread. It developed no 
Shaws or Galsworthys. It did not become the best magazine in the 
world. It published at a loss of $400,000 a year. It caused cleavage by 
a series of articles that maddened the Jewish people and resulted in an 
unparalleled recantation. 

"Let's have no more of it," he said, querulously, in signing the 
execution warrant. "The paper keeps us in hot water." 

The garroting of its editor was demanded and denied. Cameron 
began a new life after a seven-year pause. He became Ford's radio 
proxy. For 54 minutes each Sunday the company brought to the Ameri 
can public the finest of the world's music and concertists; for the other 
six the editor dealt with plaguing contemporary problems, and was a 
passionate witness for the Ford way of life. 

What Cameron said will be discussed more fully in the next 
chapter because what he said, presumably, was a reflection of Ford's own. 
thought. 



'Laissez-faire states its case 
against government interfer 
ence, finance management, 
unions, and Napoleons and 
holy mountains not its own. 



CHAPTER XVII 
HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 



SANDWICHED BETWEEN Melchior and Tibbett, Beecham 
and Ormandy, Sibelius and Beethoven, Henry Ford stepped to 
a radio microphone and expressed by proxy his views of indus 
try, the national political scene and the situation abroad from 
1934 to 1942. 

In the person of his editor, he delivered over a span of 285 nights 
in 300,000 words a series of carefully tooled essays in which William 
J. Cameron did a selling job which pretended to be nothing of the 
kind. At 9 o'clock Sunday evening there would be a tap at the family 
door and there would be Mr. Ford's understudy with sample case and 
divining rod and for six minutes he would lay out his merchandise on 
the wireless cabinet. 

The sales talks were unique. He had, he said, no theories to 
propagate, no selling arguments to offer, no political axe to grind. For 
a moment in such case there was doubt in a listener's mind as to why 
he was at the door-bell in the first place. What he was going to tell, he 
said, was "merely a modest contribution to straight thinking and com 
mon sense." He would supply facts which had been suppressed and 
complete facts which had only been partially stated. Naturally, he said, 
anyone would try to put an oar on the right side that the boat might 
make headway. The confusion was not lessened, however, by another 
statement that as a matter of fact Cameron would not lift a finger to 
change anyone's opinions "opinions change themselves." If this was 
true, it left the reason for the discourses doubly cloudy. 

266 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 267 

These preliminaries finished, Ford's Warwick set upon many 
fallacies of the tines, flogged the Roosevelt administration and its 
works, and gave industrial management's answer to a number of allega 
tions some baseless, others better founded being popularly -raised 
against the free enterprise system. For six minutes the understudy 
talked; for the other 54 Henry Ford brought to the American public 
the finest music and voices procurable. Ther were no laughs, no 
clowns, no indigestible zippididodah. 

Cameron spoke with the easy assumption of one sure of his 
ground. The people, he would say, do not believe ... are convinced 
. . . have been persuaded ... do not want'. . . finally realize . . . 
are thinking more and more. He put mass opinion on a microscopic 
slide and had a good look at it, although he was to admit in a later 
essay that public opinion was "dust that whirled in the wind" and that 
what mattered was conviction, "the granite stratum laid down by gen 
erations." His radio reign began when the country was taking its first 
creeping steps out of the depression, extended through the New Deal 
period, and for five months after Pearl Harbor, and the times were such 
as to provide abundant clay-pigeons for his fowling piece. 

But Cameron was no neutral observer: he was the alter ego of 
Henry Ford. How much of a high-fidelity recording he was, is hard 
to say; but assuming that he harvested faithfully, what he said merits 
study, for no man was closer day by day to the motormaker or knew, 
as well as anyone could, the Ford genius and fallibility and artlessness. 
It was never easy to tell where Cameron turned from the flesh and 
blood Ford to put in a few licks on the Ford statue. 

The feuilletons were tranquil at times, fighting words at others, 
always in extollation of Ford, always proud of Ford's experiments. 
When the editor spoke of fundamentals, he naturally meant the funda 
mentals Ford subscribed to. When he spoke in praise of novelty it was 
of Ford novelties, not Washington's. He was a querulous inspector of 
government innovation. 

Cameron could enjoy the novelties and showmanship of Ford, 
but similar qualities in Franklin Delano Roosevelt he found hard to 
take. He could be ecstatic over Ford building a car to take the place of 
the horse and buggy that was progress as he could be scornful of 
Roosevelt breaking with something old that was a flouting of a fun 
damental. 



268 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

His talks did not pretend to be spot news. When unionists 
were kneed in the stomachs and kicked from the overpass of the Rouge 
plant in 1937, Cameron made no radio report of the incident. His next 
talk was on the small town and a week later it was on "the factual foun 
dation of faith in the ever-dawning future." When Roosevelt was 
elected over Landon and Ford opposition in 1936, it was not until the 
middle of the next January that the editor got around to felicitation 
and a statement that "it is not abandonment of principle to say that 
most of us will agree that, on the whole, the re-election of President 
Roosevelt left a fine feeling throughout the country." 

It was a polite interlude in a campaign of Ford criticism of 
the incumbent and his administration until death came at Warm 
Springs. 

As early as 1934 and 1935 the editor was saying on the Ford Sun 
day Evening Hour: 

"We have had no Napoleons in this country and we need none. 

"Spectacular thunderclap characters leave no lasting mark. 

"The public as a whole or in good part has not been deceived 
by would-be guides who are themselves misled. 

"This is a day of names and reputations and sharp-ascending 
peaklike individualities, each presented as the one holy mountain where 
we ought to bow in national worship. America never has descended 
to that kind of idolatry, or if for a brief moment she has, it has been 
a rueful experience. 

"The virtue most prized in public men is not a superficial bril 
liance but strong balance and good character. 

"Our great national dream of a better life for every family is 
not a political phantasmagoria born lately of these distrait times, but 
a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that our people have followed 
from the beginning. 

"It is on the side of our good will we are vulnerable. The enemies 
of the American idea ask, Wouldn't you like to see poverty abolished?' 
Who would not? They ask, 'Wouldn't you like to see old age comfor 
table and secure, employment general and continuous?' Yes, and/ the 
whole kitchen side of living so strongly settled in scientific social 
righteousness we shall all be free to go on and conquer the higher 
regions of life. But to attain these things by going outside our ideal 
and standard we think is impossible. Ideas of social improvement are 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 269 

not late repentances of this nation they are the spirit of American 
progress from the beginning." 

The changes that count in the life of a people, Ford's proxy 
preached, are mostly those that occur in silence, not the noise and 
pageantry of surface movements "Law never does anything con 
structive. We have had enough of legislators promising to do things 
that laws cannot do." 

Ford emerged from a White House conference with President 
Herbert Hoover when the crash of the stock market in 1929 was spread 
ing fright and returned to Detroit to raise his minimum wage from a 
$6 to $7 day as his answer to doubters. He thought to stay panic and 
bolster confidence, but he found himself the general of a quaking army 
bolting fast for the exits. It cost him $15,0003000 before he was forced 
to rescind the "prosperity" dollar in 1931 and began to hire in common 
labor at 50 cents an hour. 

The full platter of relief Cameron brought to tie radio audience 
was heaped with such morsels as "People are convinced that those who 
trade their liberty for bread are invariably cheated of both" and "Society 
comprised entirely or in part of dependents has little on which to de 
pend" and "Unless we help ourselves there is little hope of helping 
others" and "We can help society first by not being a burden if we can 
avoid it and by contributing to the common stock at least as much as 
we take," and "When you see a nation successfully caring for depend 
ents you know it can do this because it has enough people who are 
independent." 

"If you would lift another," he sermonized, "you must have a 
foothold yourself. There is no one to look after our people but them 
selves, and what is more there never has been. The self-sufficient, self-re 
liant recovery effort of a community is stopped the day its government 
says, 'Let US save your troubles for you. 5 " 

Cameron preached the answer of those who had to those who 
didn't, and it was: 

"If you want food you must plant it. If you want a house you 
must build it. If you want an education you must toil for it, and if one 
can do this all can do it. The Road to the Delectable Mountains is not 
finished; it has been built only to where we stand by men who wrought 
before us. Pull your weight in the boat. Many a man wants to be a 
passenger but pulling his weight blisters his hands." 



270 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

New Deal reversals in the Supreme Court brought pleasure to 
Dearborn and Cameron rejoiced at the discomfiture of "busy young 
men who have been making picture puzzles of the American way of 
living and gaily piecing new paper worlds together out of the fragments 
of ancient fallacies." He celebrated the melting and fading at the first 
touch of reality of a "perfect welter of gorgeously incompetent plans" 
and thought some of the things accounted important in the depression 
hardly would attain the dignity of brief footnotes in history. 

He had Roosevelt being unseated by a plucky awakened people in 
1936 but, politics-wise, coppered the bet in the waning days of the 
Landon campaign by urging the probable losers to take solace from 
the fact that a minority was not a group of discredited citizens and 
that right principle did not fail merely because it lost in the voting. 

"In fact/' as he put it, "a minority is one-half the mold into 
which the majority must pour its metal if its work is to have strength 
and symmetry." 

After the landslide he scrambled to his feet to note that "the 
largest and most vociferous group to claim credit for having re- 
elected the President falls short about 23 millions of including all the 
citizens who voted for him. Many who did not approve the President's 
methods were wholly unwilling to replace him." 

Government interference with business was a constant thorn* 
Ford's interpreter was often to dwell on the subject: 

"The best recovery up to tonight (1938) has been made by those 
governments which had least to do with it. Government can vastly 
upset and injure the economic process but has no equal power to build 
and help. Many if not most of the things attempted by government 
should be done; the point is that with the best will in the world govern 
ment cannot do them." 

The situation as he saw it was the result of fallacies nursed for 
forty years the demand on government for something entirely beyond 
its sphere. Federal administrators had contracted from the people the 
habit of trying to be something they were not and could not be. At 
odds with many of the New Deal experiments, he did not think the 
Lord would let His children play with matches if He did not know 
the structure of the universe was fireproof. 

Unemployment insurance was to Ford's Six-Minuteman "one of 
the surest ways of insuring that there shall always be unemployment." 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 



271 



"It taxes an unemployed man's job," said he, "In order to relieve 
society of the necessity of finding the real cause of the difficulty. It 
uses doors and windows of the house for fuel and soon you will have 
neither home nor fire." 

On the other hand he took umbrage with those who derided 
shovel-leaners and leaf-rakers and reported most of the men he knew 
on WPA to be capable of more important things and preferring employ 
ment. "American business also has its shovels," he conceded, "on which 
at times it is tempted to lean." He said "tempted," however, and not 
"did." 

The NRA, of course, was a move to turn industry over to labor 
unions, and he remarked of the office of Gen. Hugh Johnson : "Henry 
Ford said, Til make a buggy that will go without a horse and make it 
so cheap that those who can't afford a horse and buggy can afford this.* 
There was no NRA to say to him: *Here, you can't buy any machinery 
to start a shop unless Washington says so there's too much machinery 
now.' We had to wait 40 years for that brilliant idea to dawn upon the 
world." 

He disputed the theory that wealth could be shared by taking it 
away from the person who had it and giving it to the person who 
didn't, and spread-the-work plans failed in his mind because for a time 
a few men got a little, none got enough, and in the end no one got any 
thing, there being nothing to share. 

"One hundred men earning $5 a day," he calculated, "have more 
recovery power than 500 getting $i a day. The $5 men will buy goods 
that will make jobs for others; the $i men will not be able to patronize 
any industry and thus will cause a decline in such industries as exist.*" 

He regarded most Washington-bred "schemes" and "theories" as 
false because "they gauge all future time by present conditions." As for 
the dole, it was never expected to lift anyone out of the dole class.- 

Occasional sophist, at other times the cold dealer in previously 
suppressed facts, Cameron expressed the Ford point of view and sup 
plied it in a big economy size package drenched in the Chanel of such 
phrases as "American principles need not that we save them; standing 
close to them they save us" or "To hear some people complain there 
are no more frontiers one would believe that frontiers were frosted cake 
and candy" and "Our national weakness for publicity permits every 
popgun to masquerade as a trump of doom." 



272 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

He was fond, too, of such rhetorical lace as "Industry does not 
support industry; people support industry"; "We do not become enter 
prising because we are free; we become free because we are enterpris 
ing'*; "Liberalizing to conserve; conserving to liberalize that is the 
genius of the American people/ 5 and "Civilization is not produced by 
the machine; the machine is produced by civilization." 

His seven-league boots carried him across a vast deal of plain. 
The weekly mailbag was full. Was the assembly line a man-killer? Had 
2 per cent of the people gobbled up 80 to 90 per cent of the national 
wealth? How much would each Ford employee get if the company 
profits of 33 years were divided among them? Was industry scrapping 
men of 40 ? Did machinery diminish employment? How much did each 
purchaser contribute to Ford profit? .Could the depression have been 
prevented if profit had been spent when earned instead of being banked 
in surplus ? 

Was it sound to absorb wage increases by price increases? Were 
storehouses jammed with surplus? Would there be revolution in the 
United States? Where did profits go? One by one he tackled them. 

Was a domestic flare-up in the offing? 

"It is an ear-catching theme. All the dissidents put together do 
not make a small handful. They represent no community of opinion. 
The American people have not authorized any group to do their think 
ing for them; they have not handed over either themselves or their 
affairs to any temporary occupants of public office, nor to those who 
sensationally and with momentary luck assault the popular ear. Any 
individual who claims to have behind him sufficient support to coerce 
the American people is simply deluded. The mistake of revolutionaries 
is to assume that America has no internal shaping principle and is a 
lump of putty to be molded into this or that by any hand that can 
grasp it. Cease confusing the fads of the moment with the trend of 
the times." 

What would be the result of "soaking the rich"? 

"Share the wealth plans usually begin with the false assumption 
that wealth is money. Money is to wealth what bookkeeping is to a 
flour mill you may confiscate arid distribute the books and bills and 
bank balance of the mill and yet have no flour. Money, being merely 
part of the bookkeeping system of society, is or ought to be the sign 
of wealth, but it is not and never can be wealth itself. It is further 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 275 

assumed that wealth can be shared by taking it away and giving it 
away. There is a catch here, also, for wealth is never wealth in the 
taking but in the using and making, and to think of sharing as taking 
is only a half truth." 

Up to the present, the most effective mechanism that experience 
has devised to share the wealth is industry, the editor declared. It is a 
market where people bring what they have to get what they need. 
It is a trading center where materials, labor, skill and science are 
changed into commodities useful to life. The farmer brings his produce 
to get industrial products in return. All men bring their services. Every 
one shares in the making to share hi the taking. He brings goods or 
work, which is real wealth; he receives dollars which give him a claim 
on the equivalent of the wealth he has contributed. Industry can really 
share the wealth because its first concern is to create wealth. There is 
no other way! The sharing process needs constant improvement, but 
certainly it does not need introduction. It is already here, and operating. 
That was Cameron's impression. 

As to surplus, two-thirds of Henry Ford's was represented by 
buildings, machinery, and materials. If all income stopped and normal 
expenditures continued, its available working cash capital would suffice 
to operate the business for about two and a half months. In 1929 
American families and individuals had saved 15 billion dollars; corpo 
rate savings for that year were two billions. Did it injure the country 
that American families had a nest-egg of 15 billion? Should it have been 
taken away from them? That was the argument, the editor said, against 
corporate savings which were gathered to be used. Had enjoyment 
been their purpose, they would not have been saved. As it was, had 
business and family savings not existed, things would have been seri 
ously worse. Had they been larger, conditions would not have been 
nearly so bad. "Those who in pathetic ignorance would like to see 
the big one soaked may not know it yet but they will be next in line." 

How much did each Ford car owner contribute to Ford profit? 

"Congressional debates assume that profits, like the gold of some 
eastern potentate, are hoarded in caves. Instead, profit is at work being 
used up as previously the so-called profits of 33 years were used. Some 
94 per cent of the money reaching Ford went out again as money and 
much of the remaining 6 per cent went into improvements and 
economies for the public benefit." 



274 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Critics of the profit motive missed the point, Cameron contended. 

"The major profit is in the article produced, and in legitimate ex 
change the user's profit is always greater than the maker's. The profit 
of a loaf of bread isn't in the pennies received by the baker but in the 
nourishment of the family that uses it. The real profit-maker is the 
public." 

For those who jeered that a lot of profit was sticking to Ford's 
fingers whatever he might say of sharing, and who wanted in black 
and white what each employee would have received if the profits of 
$844,000,000 had been divided among the workers, Cameron had three 
answers. 

First, Ford could not level his business every Saturday night and 
start from scratch Monday morning. If he had done this, the little shop 
would have stayed little since there would have been no money for ex 
periment, equipment, growth. Its methods would have remained crude 
the original 75 men would not have swollen to 125,000. "Profits sup 
port a business as wages support a family." If they had not been fed 
back Into the business there would have been no business. 

Second, the profits conserved and invested produced in wages 
four times as much as the profits amounted to 25,000,000 cars, 125,000 
jobs, 200,000 other jobs in related industries, $600,000,000 in government 
taxes. Company profits were embedded in land, buildings, furnaces, 
machines hundreds of millions had been used up and had disappeared. 
Ford had taken less out of his business in 33 prosperous years than was 
taken out of some concerns in two depression years. 

Third, the answer was a wage increase for each employee of less 
than six cents a working hour if all dividends paid in the life of the 
company were added to wages. He broke it down farther and estimated 
that each purchaser of a Ford car added to Ford profit 66 cents a year 
over the same 33-year period. 

Cameron challenged as mischievous the story that 2 per cent 
of the people owned 80 to 90 per cent of the nation's wealth and said that 
even if it was true the real difficulty was that there was not enough 
wealth to permit every American family the cherished standard of 
living. 

"Reduce all the wealth to an exact equality," he suggested, "and 
even then our supply does not balance our economic requirements. It 
is a bitter pill to our national pride but a tonic if we will receive it. 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 275 

Our immediate pressing job is to create more and produce more and 
render it easily accessible." 

Statisticians announced employment was not increasing as fast 
as production. The editor called it the same old error measuring the 
entire employment situation against one-sixth of the nation's work. 
Industrial employment HAD kept pace with production, he said; the 
jobless belonged mostly to other groups that performed five-sixths of 
the nation's work. He took government officials to task for demanding 
that industry employ at once an estimated 11,000,000 persons out of 
work in the United States. 

"Any group that normally employs less than 9,000,000, of whom 
probably 7,000,000 are now at work (1936), cannot possibly be said 
to have 11,000,000 of its people out of work. Industry never had 
11,000,000 people." Cameron was dryly sarcastic. "Second, any group 
whose highest peak of business was never sufficient to employ more 
than 9,000,000 persons cannot, even at government command, arbi 
trarily increase that number to 20,000,000. There never has been that 
much purely industrial work to be done." 

Industry alone, Cameron said for Ford, had led in starting the 
wheels of employment. The impression was erroneous, he said, that in 
spending money to help the country the largest spender was govern 
ment. The government total was about ten billions. American business 
besides spending all its income, took 27 billions from its savings of 
former years and spent that, too. Moreover it was not a loan no one 
could be taxed to pay THAT money back. 

He deplored the practice of robbing Peter to pay Paul of giving 
a wage increase with one hand and taking it away with the other by 
raising the price of the product. "We cannot win security for one class 
at the cost of insecurity to another nor build prosperity for one on the 
poverty of another." 

"If Paul needs more," said Cameron, "he ought to get more and 
our job is to produce it. As a producer of necessities the worker wants 
the highest wage he can get; as a consumer he wants to buy those 
necessities at the lowest possible price. The two demands always have 
been in head-on collision and yet the firm outright answer is that both 
are right. No one's health can be improved by injuring another's health. 
Wages ought to be higher prices ought to be lower." 

Enlightened industrial management, he said, was first to see 



270 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

these apparently conflicting forces were friends and what the trans 
forming secret was. The surest way was through lower prices. It was 
something no one dared to believe before Ford proved it could be done, 
said the motormaker's editor. 

"It is a practical accomplishment," Cameron declared, "wherever 
enlightened management has a free hand. Economic life cries out for 
its still wider application." 

Wage increases could be given in only four ways, and three of 
these were unsound goodness of heart or compulsion of conscience 
out of a surplus gathered by neglecting to pay when the employer 
should have paid; boosting the price of the product, thus reducing sales 
and employment; cheapening the product, a system under which cus 
tomers vanished and the business after them, and the fourth by train 
ing men to be worth more, putting into their hands the means to earn 
more. 

"The persistence of high prices and low wages is due to bad 
management even more than to bad intentions," Cameron declared. 

He saw only three roads open. The country could have division 
by communism or subtraction by taxation, "both methods by which 
everything grows less." Increase could come only by multiplication 
the greater production of the needful things of life. 

"When we acknowledge and are ashamed of our country's semi- 
poverty not poverty compared with other countries but poverty as com 
pared with the possibilities of America then we shall take our problem 
by the right handle," he suggested. 

The first job was to supply the undersupplied bring the capacity 
to produce up to the capacity to consume. The first step was to greatly 
lower costs and prices. It would insure, he preached, continuous em 
ployment and by increasing purchasing power business would save its 
own soul. 

"The manufacturer needs no mastery of economic theory; he 
needs no insight into the mystery of finance, he needs consult with no 
one but himself to do this," Cameron said. "He need only hitch his job 
to this idea to make goods easily available to the entire range of people 
who need and could use them. It is a business motive superior to the 
profit motive, more dynamic yet not antagonistic to it, for the man thus 
motivated will have profits to spare and all the business he can 
do." 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 277 

To those who said that there was too much production as It was, 
and that warehouses bulged with goods and no way to distribute them, 
Cameron said the statement was not true, for one thing, and if it was 
so it simply Indicated that the hypothetical goods in the imaginary 
warehouses had been manufactured under conditions of cost and 
charges and profit that made it hard for people to buy them. 

By insisting on efficiency and low costs, production men were 
doing more to solve the social problem, in his opinion, than the entire 
pack of theorists. On the other hand, business could produce goads or 
dividends, he thought, but hardly both since genuine material better 
ment could not be bought and had to be built "its expression is not 
money but goods that people can use. Men who talk of the country's 
dying economy have never touched the tips of their lily fingers to 
machinery." 

Cameron claimed many big corporations prayed for the success 
of misguided souls who had hopes of curbing competition. When 
competition of merit was artificially removed by financial mergers or 
gentlemen's agreements, it was Ford's opinion that product deteriorated, 
customer costs rose, progress of invention and service ceased. 

In earlier years when the motormaker used to drop into a 
private club in Detroit occasionally he joined a group which was 
discussing some business before going in to lunch, A member speaking 
of a deal on the tapis used the expression "gentlemen's agreement." Up 
to then Ford had only listened. 

"I never made one," he tossed in, ironically. "In any gentlemen's 
agreement I think the gentleman usually gets stuck!" 

Cameron paddled an international huddle at Oxford which an 
nounced it would rescue men from "the bondage of the machine/* 
Why, he asked, did bookmen find the machine repugnant? 

"None likes its results more," he reflected. "The machine made 
their conference possible by land and air and water. Did it not trans 
port them to where they are? It prints their books. It is the instrument 
of much of their science and gives refinements to their colleges and 
homes." 

What he called the neurotic attitude of hostility to the so-called 
Old Order and "the recoil from the machine of the so-called intelli 
gentsia" seemed to the Ford editor a group delusion fostering itself 
within itself, writing books about itself for itself to read, lectur- 



278 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

ing to itself but drawing its bread from the system it "pretends to 
despise." 

"It is a clean-cut pathological case," said Cameron, his mind 
lyrically reverting to his world of turret lathes and presses and crim 
son furnaces. "Its recoil from masculine competition is effeminate; 
its fear of the size and power of machinery is infantile. This is per 
nicious anemia of the intellect. Not even a subversive force wants them 
around. Persons of this type were first to be shot down by the Bolshe 
vists after serving as stooges for the revolution." 

Where did the bonds of the machine impinge unfavorably on 
life? There was plenty of bondage in work before the machine came 
people were bound to their work 12 to 16 hours a day . . . hands were 
the principal tools ... no freedom from heavy physical burdens . . . 
no home freedom for woman or child. 

"Then the machine appeared," Cameron rhapsodized, "and freed 
seven hours a day from bondage. The labor of one machine now sup 
ports a family. Man's rise in intelligence can be charted by this machine 
civilization." 

He thought the term "machine-made civilization" an error and 
also considered it a mistake to call the machine age "complex." How 
could it be complex, he argued, when harnessing a team of horses forty 
years ago was compared with the simplicity of an electric starter, with 
lighting a lamp by pressing a button, of heating a house, preparing a 
meal, taking a bath? Hand-tied knots were good but buckles were bet 
ter; buttons were simpler than buckles and zippers were best of all, 
the thesis ran. 

Actually what the world had was a "civilization-made" machine. 
The more man mastered his environment, the better he made machines 
to ease his toil and improve the quality of his work. They did not make 
him nor did they rule him; he made and ruled them. Life was noisier, 
not more complex, "It is more filled because we are crowded together 
and do more." 

Progress always absorbed more workers than it rejected. No useful 
industry was ever superseded or destroyed by mechanization. The type 
writer opened new professions to tens of thousands. It did not even 
disturb the pen and pencil trade, as witness the new business in fountain 
pens and patent pencils. Electricity did not efface gas. Many present 
great industries did not even pass through the handicraft stage they 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 279 

began with machinery and added a service that never existed before. 
"Who built the automobile before the machine age? No hand-worker 
could make a modern automobile." 

The machine displaces men? Faugh! Taking industry as a 
whole and the same output of cars, where 74 men were required in 
1929 there were 98 in 1936 since the new cars required more fitting, 
more finishing, more time and better work, according to Ford's pinch- 
hitter. 

"The fact is established by a study of the entire national employ 
ment situation for the past 40 years that jobs have multiplied faster 
than people during the machine age. Employment has increased more 
rapidly than the population. While population was increasing 118 per 
cent, the number of employed persons in the population increased 191 
per cent and the earlier lower figure included a great deal of child 
labor from which the latter larger figure is free. In 1870 it required 324 
persons in every 1,000 of the population to produce what consumers 
demanded; in 1930, with the machine predominant, it required 400 
persons of every thousand. 

The speed-up, said Cameron, was an abuse of the assembly line 
and he alleged only short-sighted management used it to force produc 
tion. It deprived the job of care and skill and always turned out inferior 
goods, he asserted, and to say an employer intelligent enough to train 
a permanent working force and build a quality product would call 
THAT good management was like saying a railway company would 
inaugurate a go-mile-an-hour passenger schedule with 6o-mile-an-hour 
locomotives. 

If employers were in collusion to make men of 40 obsolete, the 
editor said Ford had not joined the plot. In 1937, the year of his report, 
the percentage of Ford employees from 40 to 65 was reported higher 
than it had ever been for the nation as a whole 43% per cent of total 
employees against an all-time national high in the age group ot 35 per 
cent. 

Cameron felt the answer was in the greater concentration of this 
group in industrial centers and the new promise of older people able to 
work. "More men live longer than formerly and our older men are 
younger -than they used to be. Under old strains any one fifty years old 
was pretty well used up. Putting the burden on machines and lifting it 
off man, cutting the work day a third and the work week by 44 per 



280 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

cent, and by doubling and trebling wages, modern industry has 
helped to preserve the prime of average working life to fifty and 
beyond." 

At the time of the radio talk 19,000 men were in the Ford shops 
who had worked there 13 to 30 years. Of these, 5,600 had worked for 
Ford twenty or more years. 

Free enterprise was to Cameron the spinal cord of every period 
of progress. Democracy under the system had done more for Americans 
than' had been done for any other people anywhere in the world at any 
period of history. Capitalism rose because it was a good and liberating 
force over the system prevailing before it. No next step could be taken 
which curtailed any of the liberties won under it. They would have 
to be enlarged. 

What plain man under feudalism, he asked, was free to earn or 
own, use or dispose of what he earned? Under capitalism a man's 
earnings were established in his own control to be disposed of as he 
would. The men of business were no less praiseworthy than their 
philosophy. 

"All our major economic and social advances either originated 
with practical business men," the editor vaunted, "or became general 
law and practice because business thoroughly tested them and found 
them workable." 

The business man, he owned, had not always been sinless. Twice 
he had allowed his mind to be diverted from his proper business, the 
editor confessed the "boom" of the late 2o's had taken the minds 
of some men off their real function and men who were competent to 
make goods for use suddenly felt competent to make money by specu 
lation. The price of goods went up and quality of goods down because 
the speculative obsession deprived so . large a segment of business of 
the attention of its managers. After that, Cameron declared, came the 
experience with attempted political control in which the business man 
first became afraid of what government would do TO him and then 
fawned in hope of what government could do FOR him. 

Of labor leaders, Cameron said the title was misplaced when 
given to "anyone whose influence is toward idleness. Production lead 
ers, discovering methods to economize on costs and so reduce prices, 
and by reducing prices widen markets, and by widening markets in 
crease-wages and expand, and by expanding employment contribute 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 281 

to its continuity by multiplying opportunities for work . . . have alone 
led labor to rise." 

Lost days from strikes from 1933 to 1937 totaled 93,0003000, he 
found. 

"Not all this stoppage was approved by labor advisors/* he con 
ceded; "some of it was spontaneous combustion of irresponsible ele 
ments. 

"Undoubtedly there were instances where wages and working 
conditions Lad fallen below fair industrial practice, and a protest by 
striking back was at least understandable. The good ship Industry had 
barnacles, too, unfortunately, even if the circulatory volume of vitamins 
is growing fuller and richer. 

"But no one seriously contends that in the most -enlightened 
country industrially, general conditions ever have justified a setback of 
93 million wasted days." 

He developed at length the argument Ford long sustained, and a 
long line of debaters before him, that industry had brought to the fore 
two conflicting economic schools. 

Capitalist economy, which Ford opposed, consisted of those, the 
editor said, who believed industry's primary purpose was to produce 
dividends and was inclined to slow down on improvements and call a 
moratorium on progress. 

"The short-sighted money mind," the interpreter preached, "is 
wedded to the old idea that the principal thing business makes is 
money. It wants to see at how high a level it can stabilize prices, to see 
production methods grow obsolete and remain so for a longer time, and 
to make up resulting costs by high prices. It would do this by putting 
industry under political control." 

Management economy, which Ford supported, believed that 
today's changes were rapid and was eager to surge ahead. 

"Revolutionary discoveries," the radio analyst expounded, "are 
so numerous that to keep productive management up to the minute 
requires spending of large sums which usually give the public higher 
values at lower cost." 

I am one of many who think that when Henry Ford fussed with 
his first engine he did not think in terms of making money or of 
getting rich but of mastering the principle of a gasoline engine, and that 
at no time did he change much as he went along. He wanted to build 



282 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

many factories, build many cars, perhaps reach the ultimate in motor 
transportation, and provide work for many people. 

In 1944 I was close to him at Willow Run as a bomber was 
landing after a test run. He was standing with an Australian produc 
tion expediter and he said something he had been saying all his life. 

"Biggest place I ever saw, Mr. Ford," the man with him was re 
marking, allowing his eyes to sweep over the vast war layout. "And 
what a money-maker that tremendous place the Rouge must be in 
peace times." 

Ford turned quietly to his guest. "You know," he said, "I don't 
build automobiles to make money." 

Near me was one of his grandsons. 

"That's a fine thing to say," the young man remarked to a 
companion, a bit ironically and in a low voice. The wind carried what 
he said and the grandfather stepped spryly over. He poked a playful 
finger in the young man's ribs. 

"Just two generations from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves," he lec 
tured, reprovingly, and rejoined the man to whom he had been talk 
ing. 

As war neared, Henry Ford was unchanged in one respect. He 
had a hate of it as abiding as when he sailed on the fruitless voyage 
of his peace ship, but four years before Hitler struck out into Poland 
the motormaker was examining the omens and coming to the conclu 
sion that new bloodshed was in the making. 

His Cameron, on the air, asked for close inspection of any con 
flagration that others might start and urged that defense stay defense 
it was not to be stretched to such dimensions as to suggest aggression. 
"We want no irritated official or outplayed diplomat plunging us into 
international difficulties because HIS imperious attitude is checkmated 
or HIS pride humbled." 

In 1935 he was finding small hope of rescue in the three pre 
vailing currents of pacificism. 

"The pacifism of horror makes a low appeal and that of 
idealistic co-operation is largely in eclipse for want of ideal co-operators," 
be reported to his radio followers. "The pacificism of internationalism 
is an extension of the crude social philosophy which sets out to destroy 
family loyalty and solidarity, and carried a step farther becomes the 
dispersal of loyalty to one's country and people." 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 283 

In June of 1939 he was warning that while the -United States 
would win any war it entered, the cardinal question was whether 
Americans would still be a free people after the victory. In war the 
nation would be subject to a virtual dictatorship "and once that 
occurs the recovery of our liberties will be no simple matter/* 

"The ultimate danger is that in winning the war we may lose 
the Republic," he preached; "the danger is that those who desire that 
may try to maneuver a war as a means to it." 

When war came to Europe, Cameron reiterated that the primary 
question for America was not whether we would get into it but 
whether we let the war get into us. Negative conceptions of peace as 
merely a state of unexploded bombs would have to make way for 
something more positive. "War is mental before it is military and our 
danger point is there," He attributed the holocaust to those who had 
failed in their economic tasks. In the dictatorships a labor shortage only 
meant that with more hands than ever before and all hands regimented, 
every hand was producing less. "Two men on a job, but so ill rewarded, 
so beaten down, they cannot do ONE man's work." 

Always there were learned economic men, he recalled, to explain 
by economic cause stealing as practiced by nations. Need any nation 
in this age fight for land sufficient to raise its living? Not if it would 
learn to USE the land it had. Need any nation make war to extend 
its markets? When a war-maker alleged markets to be his aim, he 
virtually declared he would not pay a fair labor wage and would not 
build an economy that would make his people their own best market. 
War in its inception, thought Cameron, was a short-cut a brigand chose 
to evade the discipline of economics. 

"Consuming his people's strength in making armaments," he 
expatiated, "he leads them to manipulate armament in the fool's hope 
they may win by war the fruits that only work can yield. The fallacy 
that plunder enriches the thief is a statecraft begun with 'noble knights 1 
who robbed caravans on the road.** 

What the world was seeing was not history but an interruption 
of history a bull in a china shop was a distracting and stubborn fact 
but he was not history. "He is not symbolic of a time when bulls shall 
be general managers of china shops." Nor was the war prophetic of a 
militarized future where family firesides would be bombproof holes 
in the ground. The meaning was that evils we had let live and grow 



284 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

without effective protest, had simply given effect to the law by which 
one evil bred another to be its nemesis. 

"This is not history but time out from history to pay the penalty 
of our fault," Cameron described it. "There was a point where we 
stopped making history and began to make disorder. We had neither 
the courage nor decency to put away by civilized means the disorder 
that accumulated," 

In the background the Ford company, in the defense emergency, 
built a Navy barracks to train men for the mechanical maintenance of 
the country's battle fleets an institution completed in 40 days out of 
Ford's own money and geared to train 4,500 ratings a year. At the Rouge 
sprang up the first section of a $21,000,000 airplane-engine plant inside 
a shelter box of 900,000 square feet heated by charcoal braziers to form 
a sheath for steelworkers and cement crews and bricklayers working 
through the dead of winter. In preparation was an $11,000,000 airplane 
parts assembly plant. Up also was the world's largest magnesium alloy 
foundry at a cost of $800,000, widening one of aviation's bottlenecks. A 
thousand Army staff cars had been delivered, 1,500 blitz buggies. Fore- 
handedness, said Cameron to critics who complained of delays, had in 
fact saved months of time. 

Pearl Harbor was only two months away when Cameron 
preached on the economic disaster in aggression. Defense might mean 
the revival of all that was best in people aggression took more years 
out of a nation's life. 

"Today's aggressor nations had ten years to prepare their at 
tack," he suggested. "They were ten wasteful and impoverishing years. 
The production necessary to start war never is so efficient as the pro 
duction necessary to repel war. Forced upon the defensive a nation's 
motive is so urgent, its objective so clear, it will do the work of ten 
years in two. Plans to attack our neighbors cannot marshal our energy 
and intelligence so commandingly as defense of our homeland." 

The Nip came down in Hawaii on a surprised Pacific fleet and 
Cameron appraised the fissures in war materials at home. He doubted 
a little that the country had been as rich as its people boasted. 

"Our 7 per cent of the world population owned 40 per cent of 
the world wealth," he itemized the resources. "An hour of American 
labor brought 2% times as much food as the same labor ^yould buy 
in Britain, 7% times as much as in Russia. Wages had gone up 40 per 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 285 

cent, the work day shortened 30 to 40 per cent ia a lifetime. With $131 
million in life insurance policies in force, $45 million in savings bank 
accounts, 14 million house owners, we live longer and in better health 
than most people on earth. 

"But you can smudge the whole picture with a toothbrush by 
telling what we have not, that we ought to have more mechanics, shop 
training facilities, houses, ships, raihyay cars. A year ago we would have 
laughed at the idea of gasoline rationing. What with collecting scrap, 
curtailing vital manufactures and threats of further restrictions, there 
is present every symptom of lack." 

How strange, he observed, the last 25 years had been called a time 
of peace. What a strange illusion to identify war solely with guns! 
People will almost complacently go through "a terrible and obscene 
war of mental and spiritual forces and imagine it is peace, who will 
give every evidence of being profoundly disturbed the moment a she* 
is fired." The beginning of war on the Continent in 1939, he said, was 
not merely slipping from a state of peace into a state of war but only 
from the mental and spiritual stage into its munitions stage. 

He still had time to refer two weeks after Pearl Harbor to the 
"fantastic economic proposals that went about America like wild-fire 
only five years ago," upsetting those who had no anchorage in principle. 

"Is it fancy or do we hear a sigh of relief," he asked, "that now 
we can suspend the hard vocation of peace and indulge in the much 
easier work of war? Oh, fighting a war is so much easier than building 
or restoring an economy that its appeal is subtle! It is always easier to 
make munitions than to create and supply markets." 

Later three pressing questions were to engage his attention. Why 
was conversion of automobile factories to war not more rapid? What did 
the oft-repeated motto of the British mean, "Business as usual?" Why 
were buyers suspicious of certain American goods compelled to turn 
to substitute materials? 

It took 14 months to design and tool for a new automobile, but 
somehow the industry was expected to produce a tank in a trice 
as a conductor provided a transfer. An impatient public clamored for 
speed without any good idea of how it could be achieved or whether 
it was being achieved. 

Cameron got his answer into one-syllable words. A shop or mill 
produced a staple like flour, textiles or wool something the govern- 



286 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

ment could use "as is." Simply the customers, not the nature of the 
work, was changed. These were not conversion problems. 

The government did not want automobiles but the use of the 
automobile factory itself to make jeeps and tanks and planes. If a type 
writer factory had to stop making typewriters and make refrigerators, 
you would not expect the changeover in a day, would you? The im 
posing mass of automotive machinery appeared capable of making any 
thing, but was it? 

"Much of it/' said Cameron, "is specially designed and most of 
it specially tooled to take hold of, move, treat and shape pieces of metal 
exclusively for the motor car." 

The car used thin steel sheets; the tank used armor plate. Auto 
mobile panels would not serve as airplane wings. Dies made to form 
automobile parts would not do to form parts for military weapons. 
Either send a job that fits the tools or change the tools to fit the job 
that was the problem behind conversion. 

For Ford Motor Company, as the editor described it, war work 
meant almost complete retooling a 90 per cent new machinery in 
stallation for airplane engines, 85 per cent for planes, 50 per cent for 
tanks. "To make complicated war weapons the total necessary change 
in equipment is about 75 per cent and the materials must be obtained 
by government allotment. 

"To accommodate government work assigned to us, buildings 
have been erected that have actually doubled the size of the Ford Motor 
plant in this area. There has been no delay. Uninformed critics say 
the motor industry delayed conversion by clinging to its own work too 
long. The fact is that for several causes motor cars manufactured in 
recent months have cost more to make than they can be sold for. There 
is every reason to hasten conversion." 

Substitute materials were not makeshift materials. Industry al 
ways had relied on alternate materials but never on inferior ones to 
protect the continuous flow of its peace work. 

"Industry does not depend on any single material or any single 
source of supply,'* he explained, "but always has alternates not only 
in reserve but in partial use. That military needs require a wider resort 
to these is no reason to assume they are inferior." Ah, but if they are 
so good why doesn't the Government use them and not upset industry? 
"Because," the editor reasoned, "the defense program is a race against 



HENRY FORD BY TRANSCRIPTION 287 

time. It uses the materials the majority of machines are meant to 
handle, Of course the government would have used our present alter 
nate materials had this emergency occurred several years ago when these 
alternates were standard, for industry then would have been tooled up 
for them." 

This then was Henry Ford in the depression and recovery days, 
in the time when Hider readied his Stukas and the Japs advanced on 
Hickam Field if the Cameron carbon paper was good. It was at least 
Ford as he appeared through his editor's glasses. 



He plugs a monastic diet and 
serves a carrot in lieu of am 
brosia, but -jills up on wheat- 
cakes on the eve of a major 
operation. 



CHAPTER XVIII 
PLAT DU JOUR 



THE PALACE guard at Dearborn bore no load with less zeal 
than Henry Ford's dietary fancies. 
Carrots were chosen the secret of longevity and Jx? 
frowned on those who would not go at them as if they were 
duck from the ranges of Voisin. Soybeans took the place of carrots or 
were added; he was on and off oranges; he said milk was not fit for 
anyone over eight and he did not pasteurize the yield of his own herds. 
Orange juice promoted arthritis, in his opinion, and it went off the 
menu. He set experimenters to work on African grapes as a possible cure 
for cancer. A treatise of a Chicagoan on how to eat for health had an 
inning. 

He would go in jumps. He'd discover sarsaparilla and drink it 
madly for a month. He'd be on butter and off butter. A food would be 
popular for a spell and then he might exile it permanently, having 
learned it wasn't for him. He went from one extreme to another. This 
unbalanced diet, if rules meant anything, should have done him more 
harm than good, but for four-score years he seemed indestructible. 

Once people knew he was interested in diets, thousands sent him 
tips. In early days he sold himself on some of the gratuitous theories 
without any more guarantee of their merit than some correspondent's 
exuberant adjectives. Much time elapsed before he would permit his 
hospital to screen communications of this type and run cultures. 

The staff assisted other men in the industry occasionally to sift 
mail of this character. A Chicago letter-writer laid a novel scheme be- 

288 



PLAT DU JOUR 289 

fore Charles F. Kettering, world-known automotive researcher. He 
could corner, he promised, packing-house bonerneal. He proposed to 
capsule it as a cure for pyorrhea and he wanted financing. He even 
tabled the tonnage of bonemeal available to him, how many capsules to 
a ton he could get, how much profit could be made at a stipulated 
price. 

Kettering turned it down, said he had reached an age when he 
was less interested in making more money than in disbursing what he 
had, but after he had dismissed the business proposal, he continued to 
wonder if bonemeal would cure pyorrhea. His correspondent had been 
more interested in profits than In the efficacy of the alleged remedy. 

The scientist telephoned a Ford Hospital friend and asked if 
bonemeal was being used in the treatment of pyorrhea. No? "Well, 
could it be?" Never heard of it, the man on the other end said. "If 
you're interested, Ket, we can look into it." 

"Will you?" asked the inquisitive Kettering. "I'd be very grate 
ful." 

"No trouble." 

He got his report a few days later. Bonemeal had no curative 
effect on pyorrhea. 

Ford's eating was simple, monastic and slightly bizarre, and he 
found in the writings of Luigi Cornaro, the Venetian, who had lived to 
ninety-eight by abstinence and a nod from his Maker, a good fellow 
to model after. During his days at the knees of the fifteenth-century 
Latin, a good trencherman only had to mention to Ford a superior 
dinner that had pleased him guinea hen, caviar au blinis, straw 
berries Romanoff and a good wine, well say and he would unhinge 
his hands behind his head, get up from his chair and take a book from 
a stack on his desk. 

"Read this." He would hand out Cornaro's discourses on what 
stuffing did to the human stomach. "It will make you live longer," 

The Venetian, overcoming infirmities at forty, wrote at ninety- 
five his final word on piggishness at the dinner table and its racking 
results. Ford bought 500 copies of an American reprint and used them 
to rebut anyone who expressed a preference for a well-sauced life over 
one based on exact caloric content. 

He reached into a pocket one morning and got out a folded paper 
on which a few words had been scribbled. 



2 9 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 



"Read it aloud," he invited, tilting back and lifting his feet com 
fortably to the edge of a desk. 

It was an unattributed quotation. "Physicians by debauch were 
made; excess began and sloth sustained the trade." He asked, smiling 
broadly, if I knew who wrote it and I said I never heard the words 
before. 

"Dry den," he revealed. "What do you say it means?" 
"You're going to tell me it means we dig our graves with our 

: paper back. 

he suggested and pre- 
O"Tkat book of Cornaro 
fas he says." 
: health is in eating the 
ilSHfency. Take care of the 



He 



teeth." I beat him to the clich 

"Hits it right on the 
sumably expected no answer, 
will put fifty more years on 

Gourmandizing is suicide, 
right foods. The secret of < 
body like a car. This was 

When it was he do 
waters is haj^tftesiay, but 
he made u 
hundred ye; 
logical change. 
better. 

His phobias in 
as in the air of inf allibi. 




mini to find the curative 
imewhere along the line 
L salmon could live to a 
ff senescence and patho- 
and ten well, he'd do 



an irritant so much in themselves 

MfelMK. 

"ecommendations. "I reproach him not 
so much for hiding the ace of trumps up his sleeve," a Frenchman 
said of England's Gladstone, "but for pretending that God put it there." 
It would have been interesting to see if Ford could have chinned him 
self so nimbly on trees about his estate or run as fast as long as he did 
if he had spent more time tending his own furnaces or doing himself 
what was to be done on his closely clocked assembly line. 

The annoyance lay in his firm confidence that the world would 
be better off if it ate as he did and in the fact that his was the easy 
abstinence of a man never tempted. Actually he ate when, how and 
what he pleased, but because he took no especial delight in the art of 
cookery and was insensitive to Sybaritic viands he made a virtue of 
his indifference and a vice of epicureanism. If all his foods had come 
powdered and in pellets, rightly measured as to vitamins, it is probable 
lie would have felt no deep loss. 

His predilections in diets did not always square with those of 
his hospital, andliis sporadic efforts to impose his views led to situations 



PLAT DU JOUR 291 

which could be saved only by a defense in depth. It never was best 
policy to argue these points too strongly it might only firm him. To 
put him off as long as possible in the hope he might get a run on some 
thing else and forget the original undertaking became accepted strategy. 

He anticipated by years the present professional unanimity on 
the values of early ambulation by getting out of bed a few hours after 
a major operation in 1932 and going home long before the physicians 
thought it safe for him. He shocked the doctors when he was going 
into the hospital. They went to Fair Lane to check and make ready and 
J^ere met at the door by a jovial and hungry patient. 
* "I've got some fine new buckwheat flour/' he greeted them. 
He said they were to come out in the kitchen and he'd personally whip 
up a batch of pancakes for all of them. 
. "But Mr. Ford, the operation" 

) "Come on," he urged, shaking off their protests, and led the way. 
"They'll be wonderful for all of us." 

So in no time their billionaire chef was at the range and produced 
a bumper breakfast for guests who didn't know what else to do but 
fill up. He joined them and had a fine helping of cakes for himself. 
Seven hours later he was on the operating table. The next day he got 
out of bed, and in half the time usually prescribed for convalescence 
he walked out and went home although in performing an appendec 
tomy the surgeons also found a femoral hernia. 

In a report of a study of ninety operations for femoral hernia 
published six years later, the operating surgeons still had not forgotten 
the ways of their problem patient. They said a little stiffly for die ex 
clusive reading of their colleagues that "Patient H.F., 68," would not 
remain in bed walking into the bathroom each day, including the first 
post-operative day, although they admitted that convalescence was 
uneventful. They also confessed that despite the patient's unusual de 
portment "it is now six years since the operation and there has been 
no recurrence of the hernia in spite of the fact that Poupart's ligament 
was partially severed." The report said nothing of the invigorating 
syrup-splashed buckwheat cakes. 

Carrots were the flat du jour for months, and it was not unusual 
for Ford to come into an office in the early morning, unroll a hand 
kerchief and expose before a subordinate's affrighted eyes a couple of 
carrots which he had brought over from his own bins. 

"Want to join me?" he would say, hospitably. 



292 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

He would give the executive one carrot, take the. other for him 
self, and the two would munch on them, the employer with evident 
relish and the employee with what enthusiasm he could feign as they 
talked over the business which had brought Ford into the office. 

H. William Klare, a hotel manager and an old China hand at 
wangling publicity, and some caterers arranged a twelve-course, all- 
carrot dinner for a small group to toast Ford and his fad of the moment, 
and they invited a number of doctors, several citizens of his liking, and, 
by merest chance, representatives of the entire metropolitan press. 

The climax was disruptive, for up to the final talk of a forthright 
dietician, one was amazed by the succession of dishes made with 
carrots as a base, and the affair coursed along brightly, conversation 
was lively, and the party was a neat nosegay for Ford's latest love in 
nutriment. 

The room was blacked out in the beginning and after a proper 
stage wait a baby spot picked out a gowned figure in a black and 
orange domino who stood at the left of Mr. Ford's chair at the head 
of the table and said, substantially: 

"I am King Carrota! I am full of vitamins, full of iron, full of 
iodine, full of bottled sunshine. I have no enemy but a bad cook. I 
am a friend of flappers and the bald-headed, the spindly baby and 
three-chinned monsters, but who shall mix me with canned peas shall 
be consigned to outer darkness." 

It set off, on the right note, a rare dinner of carrots 1'orange, 
carrot soup Crecy mirliton, pickled carrots Greek style, carrots hors 
d'oeuvre, mousse of carrots, carrot loaf ravigote, carrots au gratin, carrot 
marmalade, carrot salad Henri Ford, carrot ice cream, carrot tarte, and 
the whole swigged down with a magnum of carrot juice. I remember 
the guest of honor saying over the stiff demi-tasse that the feast was 
Lucullan or something that meant as much. 

No one planned the unhappy denouement. The evening motif 
naturally was that carrots were fruit of Olympus but the mousy dietitian 
began to say near the finish that he thought it would be unfortunate i 
the public drew wrong conclusions from the dinner and yielded to a 
general carrot saturnalia. 

"I remember" he rose to make certain there was no misunder 
standing of his scientific objection "I remember a New York orphan 
age with which I was once associated overfed- its children with carrots 



PLAT DU JOUR 293 

a few years back. The vegetable was plentiful and cheap but some of 
the children later turned yellow." 

The startled diners looked furtively at their neighbors to see if 
they had begun to yellow. "You see," the dietitian was saying, "there 
is a lot of pigmentation in carrots more than in most vegetables." 

The alarmist seemingly thought he should sit down on a more 
cheerful note. 

"The discoloration," he soothed, "actually is not harmful, but I 
do know the children did turn yellow!' He put the last three words 
in italics. 

Everyone present, if not Mr. Ford, peeked at himself in the 
mirrors in the hotel lobby on the way out and checked again as soon 
as he got home, but Ford was unmoved. Carrots remained a favorite 
at Dearborn. 

In common with most men Ford had great confidence in his own 
distinctions between good and bad. He didn't drink therefore liquor 
was bad for those who did. He did not smoke accordingly, tobacco 
was a vice and waste of time. He was spry and well and considered 
it was so because he lived right. The other fellow could be the same by 
doing as he did. 

He hinted at times it had something to do with his mother and 
the way she brought him up. He remembered her saying, "If you eat 
too much you'll get a stomach ache,'* and he used to add on his own: 
"Every mistake carries with it an ache of some sort," but he was twelve 
when his mother died and in view of the universal litter of busted and 
forgotten maternal concepts, it is more likely that what he did in experi 
mentation he did on his own and rationalized it by whatever supporting 
data were handy, real or imaginative. 

I remember a sudden interest in the painter Titian when Edsel 
gave the Venetian's "Judith with the Head of Holofernes" to an art 
institute. The senior Ford's interest was not in Cornaro's work but in 
how long he lived; in Titian's case he was not attracted by Titian the 
painter but by Titian the nonagenarian. 

"That man got up to ninety-nine," he said admiringly, "and then 
it took a plague to knock him out." 

A reporter asked if Titian was fond of carrots. 

"I don't know but I'm going to find out," Ford said promptly and 
crooked a finger at a secretary in the next office. A project in Titian 



294 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

research got under way. Around the corner a draftsman was working 
on the automobile of the future; close at hand two executives gave them 
selves over for a week to a more urgent project: what had Titian 
Vecellio eaten or not eaten that served him so well? Ford got an eight- 
page report on it before he was through. 

Ford was telling a newsman he never overate and often went 
hungry but he failed to mention his appearance at the desk of an 
engineer shortly before noon one day, ready to cast out temporarily 
all his diet principles. 

"Let's you and I go over to the dining room before the others get 
there today," he invited in a plotter's tone. "I feel like getting drunk 
food drunk! Let's go early now and eat everything in sight." 

The engineer said that suited him. Ford, who usually nibbled, 
gorged. So did his surprised confederate. The dishes were cleared away 
before the regular shift of officials barged in. Then Ford and the 
engineer had a bite or two more for appearance's sake. When the 
bumper meal was finished, Ford drew his engineer aside. "Now let's 
get away I want to show you something." They strolled over to an 
other office and to a shelf containing a dozen unlabeled boxes. Ford took 
one down. 

"I'd like you to try this," he said. 

The engineer examined the pasteboard cylinder. He took off the 
lid and was no wiser. He asked what it was. 

"Well, it's a new laxative." Ford said it was good he was 
trying it. 

The engineer, who had thought himself a preferred banquet guest, 
suddenly was depressed he was really a guinea pig. 

It was a newspaperman, veteran Kenneth F. McCormick, who dis 
agreed with Ford on his theory of undereating and going hungry. It 
was his opinion, he informed Ford, that no such arbitrary practice 
would do. Take his wife, he said. She had not been feeling well. He 
was positive if she ate more she'd feel better. She never did eat a great 
deal and what appetite she had, he reported, had practically deserted 
her several weeks back. 

Ford asked a number of questions. The newsman forgot all 
about the conversation until he reached home and a distraught spouse 
said now what had he been doing. She had had a telephone call. It 
had been from Dearborn. It was a personal message from Mr. Ford 



PLAT DU JOUR 295 

whom she had never met personally. He wanted to know if she could 
go to Henry Ford Hospital for a checkup and a diagnosis as to what 
was causing the lack of appetite reported to him. Mrs. McCormick 
wanted to know if Mr. McCormick could not keep anything to him 
self. 

"Heh, wait a minute until I put in a call," her husband finally 
injected. He got Dearborn. "Say, what is all this about my wife going 
to Ford Hospital? . . ." a Oh," he said. "Oh," he said again. "He did? 
Well, that's very kind. Well, thank him, will you, and I'll thank him 
when I see him" . . . "Wednesday? Well, I'll try to get her there." 

The lady went to the hospital. Her appetite surged back. In a 
month the grocery bill had soared. The newspaperman said he wished 
he had known enough to keep his big mouth shut and let Mr. Ford's 
remark about occasional fasting stand unchallenged. 

The motormaker fancied his fleetness as a runner even in his 
eighties. If he had a guest, younger or older than himself, he invariably 
challenged him to a foot-race. Few managed to outstrip him, although 
some of his younger opponents a mere supposition and possibly a 
canard were suspected of working under a strong pull and not giving 
their best. 

Ford would be sauntering over to the Scotch settlement house in 
Greenfield where he schooled as a boy, and on the way, as a warm-up, he 
would vault stone fences or leap for the lower limb of a tree and chin 
himself. He simply felt like a nip-up; it made no difference whether he 
was alone or was walking with someone. He pulled himself up four or 
five times and let himself down and would drop to the ground un- 
winded. 

A guest barely had recovered from the shock when Ford would 
say: "111 run you over to the school!" and be off. Many a visitor broke 
his heart trying to keep up with Greenfield's star letter-man. 

In an athletic burst on his yacht the Sialia, he would defy a fellow 
passenger and charge around the deck. 

"Now on one foot!" he might shout at the end of a lap, and the 
second time round would be a strenuous series of hops. 

He flung a challenge at William S. Knudsen, once president of 
General Motors, and his own secretary, Liebold, and bolted down the 
Union train-shed in Washington for his private car with the other two 
tailing. Liebold was a short, chubby, unathletic man, but this time he 



296 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

was possessed and passed the flying Ford at the wire. For some weeks 
afterwards the secretary decided the victory was impolitic. Ford, in his 
humiliation, avoided Liebold as if he had some contagious disease. The 
next race between them Ford won. In his defeat he merely was in a 
slump or overtrained or had too many baggage trucks to sidestep. 

Drew Pearson broadcast a report in 1944 that friends of Ford were 
worrying over his physical condition and that the government might 
move to take over and operate his war plant. The tycoon of Fair Lane 
did not have anything wrong with his lungs, although his health was 
causing concern, and from his summer lodge in Northern Michigan he 
challenged the columnist to a race. 

"I can lick him at anything he says," Ford declared, or his pub 
licity people took it on themselves to say for him. "Never felt better in 
my life. I do not know how young or old this Pearson is but bring him 
on!" His personal physician, a natural second, remarked that Mr. 
Pearson was probably in for it and the furore was so loud that the 
commentator, who had been only half wrong, recanted and said he was 
sure no one need worry over Ford's energy and way of doing things. 
He declined a test on the Dearborn straightaway. 

Only the superintendent of his garage ran Ford into the ground 
with what seemed a reckless regularity. They were old friends and it 
was said that in their younger days he had beaten Ford so badly that 
the memory of it long nettled the Fair Lane sprinter. 

The two were about the same weight, but the superintendent 
was shorter and stockier and older by ten years. They would run on 
the concrete from one end of the long Highland Park garage to the 
other. Ford bided his time. There surely would come a time when the 
superintendent would lose all that bounce, but he turned sixty and then 
seventy with no lessening of speed or it may have been he did lose some 
but maintained the differential between himself and his employer. 
Ford's record was still a shut-out. 

One day when Ford was seventy-five and they were about to go 
to it, some of the top brass got the garage superintendent aside and said 
that, damn it to hell, Joe, wouldn't it be nice after all these years to let 
the boss win once just a gesture? He would not connive. 

"He'll never beat me," he blared back at the circle of fixers, "so 
long as I've a breath in my body." Mr. Ford came in second. 

Nothing could stop the motormaker's running until in sprinting 



PLAT DU JOUR 297 

from his car to a plant door at seventy-nine he fell on his face in the 
cinders. After that he walked. No doctor could stop him. It required the 
spill to convince him he was not as durable as he had been once. 

One nonagenarian nonplussed the Dearborn roundtable for a 
time. He was the late William Henry Jackson, who came to see Ford 
when the British were on the beaches at Dunkirk. He was in his 
middle nineties, had fought at Gettysburg, photographed the con 
struction of the Union Pacific Railroad and was regarded as dean of 
American photographers. Ford was twenty years younger. He was 
absorbed in the account of Jackson's experiences but his eyes had time 
to take in his guest's heaped plate and wonder at it. 

The visitor was obviously ravenous and when he made his first 
selection he chose a rare steak and said he would have all the side dishes. 
For. dessert the waiter suggested hot apple pie "Very good today, Sir." 

Jackson waved him to bring it on. Perhaps strawberry ice cream 
on top of it? "Capital idea!" The shuddering host's theory of modera 
tion was falling to bits beside him. 

"If you don't mind my asking, how do you do it, Mr. Jackson ?" 
he finally asked. "Your appetite, I mean." 

The ninety-six-year-old guest thought it could be due to living 
out of doors as much as he did and not worrying over things he could 
do nothing about. "I think," he said, "both those things have something 
to do with my pleasure in good food." 

Ford probed for a better clue. 

"Ever drink?" Jackson, after all, might be a brother teetotaler and 
this would answer the riddle. 

"Sherry and some of the modern whiskies I find stimulating, Mr. 
Ford, and I'm not amiss to a cocktail," said Jackson, cheerily, with the 
easy air of a good liver and one who never had stinted himself. He said 
he would be honored if Ford would accept a gift from his private stock. 
The abstemious host said his guest was most kind but as for himself he 
did not drink. 

"How about exercise? Get plenty of sleep ?" Ford coupled the two 
questions in his haste to learn what made his guest tick so well. 

Jackson confessed he was afraid he did not get much exercise. He 
was a patron of taxicabs, and most of his friends, one gathered, kept 
dissolute hours. He made a little gesture with his hands which 
seemed to say his friends were a deplorable and unredeemable lot. He 



298 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

returned to his pastry and Ford stared blankly out the cottage window. 
A magazine writer coming up the walk with a cigarette in his mouth 
gave him sudden new hope. He whipped back to his guest as if he had 
hit upon an answer too simple to be true. 

"I forgot to ask, Mr. Jackson, if you smoked," he purred. 

The nonagenarian looked up from his hot pie a la mode long 
enough to say that smoking was one indulgence of which he was free 
and innocent. Vindication had arrived at last. Ford put his hand tri 
umphantly on the older man's shoulder. 

"That's it! That is it! I knew it!" Ford was exultant. He finally 
had found the basic reason for the longevity his guest did not smoke. 
Jackson raised the last forkful of rich flaky crust. "Because you don't 
smoke you have stamina," Ford remarked and Jackson bowed in pre 
sumable assent. He said, though, he would like a second small piece of 
that very good pie. 

The motormaker never had a spare pound of flesh on him. Sixty, 
seventy, eighty there was buoyancy to his stride, spring in his knees. 
His juniors gave up hope of matching him in vitality even by measuring 
out their quotas of carrots and soybeans and oranges or whatever seemed 
the reigning favorite. 

A Savannah doctor at Ford's Georgia estate had evidence of 
physical prowess at a time when most men had a wary eye out for 
sclerosis. The doctor had suggested that such prodigality in the use of 
energy would take a toll if Ford, then 72, did not slow up. 

"Got that thing-a-ma-jig with you for taking blood pressure?" 
asked the host. The count taken, he rolled his sleeve down and started 
for a steep staircase. He took the flight two steps at a time, ran down 
again, made a face at the disapproving doctor, repeated the ascent and 
flew down once more at unabated speed. He jogged over and rolled up 
his sleeve again. 

"Now try it,'* he invited. There was very small difference in the 
readings. 

"I still don't like it," said the unconvinced doctor. 

The soybean era dawned and the oldest food crop of the Orient 
appeared at meals, on his farms, in his executives' fields, in enamel to 
paint the car, in knobs to shift the gears, horn buttons, accelerator 
pedals, experimental door panels. He had a suit made of soybean wool, 
and a matching tie. He predicted in the early thirties that soybeans in 



PLAT DU JOUR 299 

the cornbelt would eventually surpass com and in 1944 corn states 
doubled their soy yield. A small patch behind the Ford laboratory at 
tained prodigious stature. In two years he spent $1,250,000 on it He 
engaged an ex-curator of the Royal Botanic Society in London to experi 
ment on his English farmland, and grew nearly fifty varieties of soybean 
originating in North America, Canada, Manchuria and Japan. 

He distributed among newspapermen loaves of bread which 
contained about 28 per cent soybean meal. You could leave a slice on a 
window nine days and it would be as fresh at the end of that time as 
the day it was baked. 

The soybean brought him one setback. The barn his father 
built the year his first son was born and where Henry later began the 
revival of old-fashioned dances was dismantled and reassembled to 
house soybean processing machinery at the Chicago Century of Progress 
exposition. It accidentally burned. It was a barn no different than any 
one else's but none was more streamlined or better groomed. It enjoyed 
the care of a suite at the Savoy and was always a landmark in Ford's life 
which he extolled probably more in later years than when he played in 
its mow and went reluctantly out to work in the fields about it. The 
barn stood for something pleasant to him, although he chafed at any 
glorification of the motorless rustic life he knew as a boy. 

Only one-third of the barn was destroyed, and it was rebuilt with 
dispatch within a week. Fellow exhibitors, pretending to scent a plot, 
called at the Ford space to ask, "Aren't you getting enough publicity 
here as it is without burning your barn down?'* 

His cooks served an all-soybean dinner at the exposition. There 
had been only twelve courses of carrots five years before; soybean dishes 
came to sixteen. We had tomato juice seasoned with soybean sauce, 
salted soybeans, celery stuffed with soybean cheese, puree of soybean, 
soybean crackers, cakes, cookies and candy, soybean croquettes with 
tomato sauce, buttered green soybeans, pineapple ring with soybean 
cheese and dressing, soybean bread with soybean butter, apple pie with 
soybean crust, cocoa with soybean milk and soybean coffee. The building 
itself was covered with paint containing soybean oil as the only drying 
oil. Ford had begun to paint his cars with enamel having 35 per cent of 
the oil of soybeans. 

A radio announcer walked amongst the guests at the soybean 
dinner with a portable microphone. He would hold the hand mike in 



300 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

front of you and say: "Ah, I see you are having a pineapple ring with 
soybean cheese do you like it?" Some guests took it in their stride. 
Before others could swallow or recover from mike-fright enough to say 
"Splendid!" or uncooperatively that the whole thing was poisonous, the 
announcer would have passed on to ask a neighbor if he, also, didn't 
think the croquettes peachy. 

It was by accident I found that Ford was a crusader who occa 
sionally dismounted, allowed Rosinante to graze, had his armor patched 
and even consorted a little with the devils he was battling. I walked into 
an obscure restaurant in Dearborn and found him with two pieces of pie 
in front of him. At least, nothing but crumbs were left of one and he 
was well into the second. 

"I feel hungry for some reason," he said blandly. "Can't under 
stand how it happened." 

After he left the proprietor said it was not unusual for Ford to 
drop in for an occasional snack. Those about him thought the back 
sliding due to an imbalance in what he did eat sometimes it just did 
not provide the needed head of steam for the daily whirligig. 

His private office and desk might as well have been assigned to 
someone else for few ever saw him there. Even when Edsel arrived, 
they'd go upstairs and discuss over a drawing-table what it was they had 
to talk about. Ford always said he did it because he could get out of 
another fellow's office faster than he could get another man out of his. 
On the desk might be a stack of wax dolls or a pair of old skates but 
behind it was no one jousting with interoffice phones and buttons and 
posing as a cyclone off leash. Blue Monday was blue to Ford only 
because he loafed Sunday he said it took all Monday to rest up after 
doing nothing. 

The crew of his yacht was a little sorry for the owner. They were 
fine trenchermen but if Ford got real pleasure from a p uticular food he 
seemed to grow suspicious. They told him he was missing a good deal. 
It was in Florida waters he first met scallops and he liked them so well 
he was a little skeptical of them. 

Coming up to meal time, it was not unusual for him to appear in 
the galley to see what was cooking. Once he caught the fragrant odor 
of hash. 

"Jiggs, eh?" he brightened, associating the smell with his pet 
comic-strip character. 



PLAT DU JOUR 301 

Often he was unable aboard ship to stick it out until the regular 
hour and would beg a snack to eat in the galley before dinner. There 
seemed to be a tacit understanding between Ford and his crew, In such 
cases, that these clandestine lunches were not to be gossiped about 
The hash was so tasty he ate a plateful and It spoiled his appetite. He 
only picked at his regular evening meal. His wife was solicitous. 

"Aren't you feeling all right?" she asked, looking at the plate 
that was scarcely touched. 

He said it was odd but he didn't feel hungry. Feeling fine, though, 
he said, reassuringly. The waiter, expressionless, took the plate away. 

A dish was served with which he was unacquainted. He drifted 
back to the galley and asked if there was a little portion left over. 
They found some for him. He did not want to eat it. He sent a 
sample back for analysis to his dietitians in Detroit. It was almost as if 
he thought anything so tasty must have something wrong with it and 
wasn't for him. 

Yet the food at his inns was excellent and the sailors on his Sialia 
considered themselves the best uniformed, best fed and best paid in 
private service. A strict budget might be imposed by other owners, but 
on Ford's yacht no limit was set. The crew ate as much as it wanted as 
often as It wanted of whatever it wanted. 

He broke the heart of a man who had been beaten for sheriff by 
a politician Ford did not like. He sympathetically gave the defeated 
candidate a restatirant concession in one of his plants and when the 
grateful politico heard one day Ford was coming to lunch, he had Ms 
cook make a special cake and roast two turkeys. The table was dressed 
in suggestion of Thanksgiving. 

* I'll have some crackers and milk, I guess," said Ford as he sat 
down, dismissing the rich testimonial with a cold stare. 

He was asked at eighty for his rules of living and recalled a man 
who had started a chicken farm, failed at it and wrote a book on how 
to raise chickens. The story did not fit. Ford had done pretty well with 
the prohibitions he laid on himself, eating what he thought good for 
him and not too much of that, keeping flexible, never crowding his 
stomach. Those who sold health nostra by jingle would have starved if 
their dosages had no other market. 



Lover of knockabout, Ford 
lined up with the practical 
jokers. At times the fun was 
puckish, more often corny and 
unbuttoned. 



CHAPTER XIX 
THE JESTER 



IT WAS NOT LONG before Henry Ford died and when he had 
been around the plant only at irregular intervals that he walked 
into the enormous drafting room. Men bowed over drawing boards 
as far as he could see. The setup was new to him and he asked what 
this department was what were all these fellows doing? 

"Why, Mr. Ford," the cicerone beamed, "they are building your 
1948 car." The man who put his first .horseless carriage together by 
hand looked as if he could not believe it. 

"What? With pencils!" he asked, dryly. He waggled his head 
over the phenomenon. 

The astonishment was bogus, naturally. He had seen drafting 
rooms before even if they had been only quarter the size of the one he 
was in, and he was used to magnitude. He was simply having fun and 
his fun came in all sorts of canisters. 

Some of it was sly and puckish, some strictly hotfoot and B- 
picture, but however light the jest, laughter convulsed the nation's copy 
desks. They worked by one logical rule in his case. A canon of the trade 
for years was that what Henry Ford said or did, wise or corny, inter 
ested more readers than any pearl of poorer men. 

The late Calvin Coolidge gave him a sap bucket and Brooklyn a 
trolley car of 1868. Bellboys of Boston voted him their favorite tipper and 
chauffeurs of Ecuador made him a member of their union. He acquired 
a dray which hauled part of the stone for Brooklyn Bridge, a revolving 
rake a century old from Rhode Island, the second oldest backsmith shop 

302 



THE JESTER 303 

extant, and New Zeaknd schoolboys proclaimed him one o the hree 
greatest men of Christendom. A nation smiled. A world read of it with 
interest. All were good for Page One. 

His cross was that his lightest sally had a way of shinnying up a 
telegraph pole and being off at once on the news wires to be served 
with the next morning's grapefruit. Bubbles swelled to balloons. A little 
quip grew into the gag of the week. What he might say as a mere 
pleasantry became eventful through no fault of his. Joe Doakes could 
have his. joke and the world not suffer a tremblor, but not Ford. 

The squire of Dearborn drew fun at many wells. Few who 
worked so hard played so hard. He whittled toys of cedar shingles 
for children, peeled off jigs on a Stradivarius, dancing the while as he 
played them. He tried to ride a square-wheeled bicycle on the stage of 
the New York Winter Garden when the curtain had rung down and the 
audience was filing out. When pressed to choose the greatest man he 
ever met he named his own police chief, and one fellow he remembered 
was the straggler who called him a liar at the Canadian locks and found 
out better and ran alongside the yacht shouting in apology, "I did not 
know you without your shoes, Mr. Ford." 

A lawyer on Ford's private railroad car woke early and after 
trying to go back to sleep decided to get up and check some papers. The 
party was returning from Washington to Detroit after a showing before 
the Interstate Commerce Commission. Before settling to work the 
lawyer stepped out on the rear platform. The train had slowed and on 
the roadbed between the tracks sixty-year-old Ford, who had shucked 
his coat, was running spryly, knees high, head back, breathing easily. 
He quickened his stride when he saw he had an audience and swung 
to the lower step of the vestibule. 

"Just having a little fun for myself." He put on his coat. "Thought 
I'd work up an appetite for breakfast." 

The attorney was inured to shock. The motormaker had extended 
his hand across the dinner table the night before and borrowed his pre- 
Waltham watch, a willed timepiece from a grandfather. Ford asked the 
porter to set up a side table, produced miniature tools from a side 
pocket and proceeded to disassemble the heirloom to the smothered 
anguish of the owner. Satisfied a half hour later with what he had 
learned he put together the pieces to the relief of the shuddering 
lawyer. 



304 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"A very fine watch." He was unaware of the consternation he had 
caused. "I fixed one as a boy but I haven't seen one like it since." 

The two other men at the table watched the performance indiffer 
ently. They had seen the show before a hundred times. Ford always 
was taking watches apart down to the last wheel. Usually they ran 
much better after his tinkering, but not always. 

A reporter who knew him intimately got under his skin for 
some years by insisting that after Ford took his watch to fix, it never 
ran again. 

"Ruined it," he would say, accusingly. 

Ford always looked on the newsman with lowered eyelid and 
thought he was being ribbed but never was quite sure. He tried for years 
to get his hands on the watch again. "Bring it out if there's anything 
wrong with it," he would urge. The newsman always maintained he 
had thrown it away in disgust it was no longer any use to anybody. 
Ford was rather glad when the fellow took a job on a West Coast paper. 

He bought the London jewelry store of Sir John Bennett, with 
its Gog and Megog, and shipped it home to house his collection, and 
when he was restless the sedative was in an elaborate shop over his 
garage tinkering with his array of timepieces. He thought at one time 
he would make watches by mass production to sell at 40 cents, just as he 
considered the idea of violin-making on a huge scale. There was no 
reason he could see why Dearborn could not become the American 
Cremona and turn out fiddles of quality as the old Italian craftsmen 
once had. He never got around to either. He had too many other things 
to do. 

He and Mrs. Ford week-ended at the Cliveden home of the 
Astors in 1928 with England's king and -queen. As he made his way to 
his quarters an hour after arrival he met a member of the house staff in 
an upper hall* and the man stopped for a word. 

"I took the liberty, sir," he said, "of laying out your apparatus." 

Ford nodded blankly, uncertain of what was meant by "appara 
tus" but judging it a colloquialism for baggage. He was enlightened 
and amused when he opened the door of his suite. 

A man of restless hands, he fancied functional things in minia 
ture, and always on a long journey he packed a kit of small tools. When 
his son was in knickerbockers Ford made toys for him with a jack- 
knife; when his son's sons came along, and a granddaughter, he built 



THE JESTER 305 

them a junior-size thresher, a sulky and midget motor, and I remember 
the thresher was called the "He-Be-Jody," a contraction of the first 
names of the first three children, Henry, Benson and Josephine. 

When he walked into his Astor apartment he found the rosewood 
box in which he kept his tools had been unpacked and on a dressing 
table in a neat row were all 52 pieces pliers, wrench, vise, tweezers, so 
on. The houseman who had taken care of the luggage had taken for 
granted that Mr. Ford, to keep his hand in, might wish to put an auto 
mobile together in the drawing room after dinner. 

He visited Edward T. Stotesbury, Morgan partner, at White 
Marsh, cushioned for sumptuous living with 145 rooms, fourteen eleva 
tors, 45 baths and gardens reminiscent of Versailles, he reported. Beside 
it the Ford home was a lean-to the other side of the tracks. Mr. Ford's 
weekend ended with a shirt-sleeve session with Philadelphia newsmen 
who wanted to know what kind of a time he had. 

"The Stotesburys are charming," he reflected. "Yes," he said, "de 
lightful people." He re-added the pleasures of his stay and seemed to 
think he had understated his good time. "It's a great experience," he 
said, "to see how the rich live." It was good as amended for a front-page 
box. He had an eye on that box or feature head always. 

Kenmore, Virginia home to which Betty Washington returned to 
find her illustrious brother George in her best bed, his boots still caked 
with Yorktown mud, preens itself on a grandfather clock, and on a 
visit an attendant called Mr. Ford's attention to it and told him it was 
200 years old. 

"Keeps excellent time, too, sir," the custodian was properly proud 

"How good? Guess 111 see," Ford took out his own watch and 
studied. He looked up after a short pause. He had the expression of a 
man who had caught another in grave error. "It's slow," he announced. 

"Slow?" The keeper of Kenmore stared at the clock trustingly 
and at Ford in disbelief. 

"A full second," Ford estimated. 

A fleet correspondent sprinted for the telegraph office and the 
world was soon told that Ford had found a second's flaw in the clock 
by which the Washingtons once rose and retired. 

He was not the best of sailors aad even in a calm was fitful in 
the constrictions of deck space. When his yacht was locking through a 
canal he'd hurriedly vault a rail and welcome the chance to feel the 



306 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

boundless firm ground under him. He would make the ascent or descent 
of the locks afoot and let his guests ride the ship if that's the way they 
wanted it. 

He went over the side of the Siatia when the yacht nosed into the 
Cornwall locks below Montreal one cruise, and when he got to the 
bottom level he found his radio operator was already there and was 
spread out comfortably on the stones, shoes and stockings off and trail 
ing his feet in the water. Ford lowered himself to the shelving, off 
came his shoes, and his bare toes joined the radio operator's in the 
eddies, 

By the time the Sialia reached the second basin, a loiterer beside 
the bathing pair was gazing admiringly at the descending boat. The 
operator wore the braid of his rank but Mr. Ford was only another 
foot-washer to anyone who could not read the black bands on his sleeves 
denoting owner status. The wayfarer turned and remarked on the 
yacht. 

"Nice boat, eh?" he said. 

"Yes it is." Ford glanced up and nodded. 

"Whose is it?" 

Ford said, "I guess it belongs to me." 

"What a liar you are," boomed the stranger, unexpectedly, and 
moved off. No barefoot lounger could fool him. He strolled over to the 
Jock-tender and engaged him in conversation. It was apparently still 
about the Sialia and seemingly he got confirmation, for as the ship set 
out for the Upper St. Lawrence and Mr. Ford reappeared on deck fully 
shod again, the stranger was shouting apologies. 

"Ahoy, Mr. Ford!" He was waving now. "I didn't know you with 
out your shoes, Mr. Ford," he was yelling contritely, running along be 
side the moving boat to make sure he was understood. 

The motormaker had a similar experience in Northern Michigan 
when he and some mechanics were doing a test run through heavy sand 
with a new model and camped on the edge of a wood at the end of the 
day. They set out to forage for food and found a bereft native in a 
nearby barn who had some eggs to sell but whose angry concern at the 
moment was a decrepit Ford car on which he was working blasphem 
ously. The medication did not seem to improve the engine's cough. He 
had bought it only a few hours before and when he got it home couldn't 
start it again. 



THE JESTER 307 

Ford and Ms overalled crew found what was wrong without too 
much trouble. The pleased owner listened to the regular purr of the 
motor and asked what he owed. Ford said nothing, but the backwoods 
man laid down a dollar and a half. He insisted it was worth that to him 
anyway. "You gave me some tools and parts," he reminded. 

Ford pushed the money back and said he really had all the 
money he needed. That did it. The farmer snorted. 

"Don't tell me that," he said, pleasantly enough but undeceived 
by what seemed a sheer boast. "You can't have all the money you 
need and still drive a Ford car." 

The debate might have gone on with no settlement, so Ford 
pocketed the money. The native got a check for it a couple of weeks 
later. It was signed "Henry Ford" and with it was a brief scribble, "I 
do have all the money I want and I do drive a Ford car. What's the 
matter with that?" 

Ford's own low inventory of yarns caused him a bit of embar 
rassment at one time and he took steps to build a stockpile much as he 
would if he had found his bins bare of some particular car part. 

"Say, Bill," asked one of his able supernumeraries after quiet 
study of an old friend who was calling one morning, "have you heard 
anything lately in the way of funny stories, fast or otherwise?" The 
executive leaned back hopefully. 

The caller thought for a full minute and then confessed he knew 
nothing lethal at the moment, and just why, anyhow, was he being 
invited to be funny at this hour of the morning? 

"Mr. Ford," the secretary said, "is back from camp. In the eve 
nings he and Harding, Edison, Burroughs and Firestone sat about the 
fire and told stories." 

The visitor said he would be happy to hear a couple if they were 
any good. 

"That's hardly the point," the official said patiently. "Mr. Ford 
ran out of what he had." 

Now, he said, he was collecting some stories for the boss he was 
again the man of action carrying out probably a voluntary assignment as 
if it were unsurprising routineso that when Ford went to camp next 
season he could earn his seat beside the blazing brushwood. 

No report was issued on the research, but since the official was 
accomplished there is little doubt that vvhen Ford left for the woods 



308 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

again he carried a full sample case of the best gags obtainable, and that 
some bit of primeval forest rang with appreciative laughter. 

The venerable Thomas Edison, earthy patriarch of the electrical 
field, was reported on his way to lunch with Mr. Ford for the first time, 
and two young Dearborn executives worked themselves into a fine froth 
over the meeting of giants. Such a communion of minds, they reasoned, 
held storybook promise. They ate regularly at a little white cottage 
where the colossi would eat, and the two hardly slept in anticipation 
of shiny dialogue. 

They were a half hour earlier than usual for lunch on the starred 
day so that no one would usurp their seats, only a dozen feet from the 
open alcove where the renowned always lunched. They fell into a hush 
when the cottage door opened and the wizard from Menlo Park, his 
host and a few others sat down at the round table. 

The waiter took the order. A man spoke. It was the inventor, 
who had a penchant for a lusty tale. 

"Henry,*' the voice said, "have you heard this one?" 

The tale ran to a heated climax. Mr. Edison chuckled. Mr. Ford 
chuckled. The other men said that was a good one. 

"And this one" the guest was off on another yarn of the same 
category. The young executives looked at each other bleakly, took a last 
swallow of coffee and left. The day had simply turned out badly for 
pearl-fishers. 

No one ever was quite sure if Ford was playful or slyly malicious 
in a surprise he reserved for some visitors. It was noticeable that he 
usually chose for his prank a chesty guest with whom he was a little 
bored. The dulcimer and the vibraphone would combine in a languish 
ing tune as Ford and the visiting bigwig stood talking on the edge of 
the waxed engineering floor and Ford suddenly would cock an ear, 
appear to identify the tune as one of his favorites, and look innocently 
enough at the man beside him. 

"This is one of my favorite waltzes," he would say. "Let's 
try it!" 

Before the palsied visitor had time to collect his wits or realize 
what his host had in mind, he would find an arm about his middle, a 
hand pressed lightly into the small of his back, and he and Ford revolv 
ing on the floor. Only one who had developed a high stoicism ever 
returned to the sidelines unaged by such an experience, particularly since 



THE JESTER $09 

the host himself usually wound up unruffled and saying court 
eously, "That went fine, didn't It? You dance well!" or letting the dance 
pass without a word if the visitor had proven unwieldy. The average 
guest was tongue-tied either way at this point and trying to believe that 
the whole thing never happened. He would forget to tell his directors 
when he installed himself again at the head of the table where he was 
kingpin. 

With all his eye for publicity, there were many times when Ford 
did not want to be bothered. A young reporter hustled up tu him and 
a companion in a Cincinnati train shed after Ford had examined the 
engine of his train, climbed into the cab for a few words with the 
engineer and lowered himself to the platform to go back to his private 
car. 

"They say Henry Ford is on this train," the young man hailed 
them. Apparently the light of the shed was too poor for the reporter to 
recognize his man right there in front of him. "Did either of you happen 
to see him?" he panted. 

Both shook their heads and said they were afraid they could be 
of no help. Ford did volunteer that he had seen an old, thin, gray- 
haired fellow getting up in the locomotive cab a few minutes before. 

"Could be him," the newsman nodded over the description. "In 
the engine cab, eh? Queer cookie, this Ford!" He said thanks as he 
hurried to the front of the train. 

"Must be," Ford nodded and resumed the walk back to his coach. 

Ford served his apprenticeship in comedy in machine shops and 
boiler rooms and his humor often had a left-handed screwdriver color 
blowing sulphur fumes with an improvised bellows through a knot 
hole into a closed room where two cronies were working, making off 
with a bicycle the dynamo-tender had borrowed to teach the corner 
milliner to ride, threading a cigar with horse-hair as a surprise for his 
Highland Park engineer, spiking a sloven's shoes to the floor of the 
Edison Illuminating Co. to teach him a lesson in order. Disorder to Ford 
was a cardinal sin. The worker was forever leaving shoes and clothes 
and tools scattered about, dropping them wherever he was at quitting 
time. 

He was an addict of the practical joke and if he could not think 
of one that pleased him he made an assignment of it. On a trip to his 
timber stand in Michigan's upper peninsula he conceived a watch- 



3io THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

smashing trick that was rewarding, and he was sitting on the edge of 
the bed the night before the return to Dearborn when it occurred to him 
the journey would be incomplete without some fun at the expense of 
Charlie Sorensen, his lieutenant at the Rouge, who was on the trip with 
him. 

He asked the switchboard to connect him with his secretary's 
room. Could he come in a minute? It seemed that Mr. Ford had decided 
that a practical joke had to be played on his production boss but his own 
fertility had failed him. The party would start home at 8 A.M. It was 
now i A.M. 

"You think one up a good one/' Ford instructed. He got under 
the covers and snapped off the light. "G'night," he said. 

A clapping of imperial hands at i A.M. let's have a practical joke 
and it must be good. A good Ford executive had need of diversified 
talents. 

Before going north to inspect the timber holdings Ford suggested 
a shopping expedition to his secretary. He wished, he said, to play a 
prank on Frank Klingensmith, his purchasing agent, and for it he 
needed a watch that looked as much as possible lite the prospective 
victim's. 

"You know that watch of his," Ford remarked. "A Howard, isn't 
it? Get a cheap one like it." 

A couple of screws in the balance wheel were loosened so the 
counterfeit would lose time, and a third man, Sorensen, was taken into 
the conspiracy. The doctored watch was substituted for the genuine 
aboard the Ford yacht when Klingensmith hung his vest on a cabin 
door and went to wash at midnight. When the passengers got up next 
morning they were berthed at Escanaba. 

"Be at the hotel promptly at noon," Ford issued instructions to 
the group on the wharf before it scattered. "We'll talk over plans then. 
Better see if your watches are right." 

All watches but Klingensmith's pointed to 10 o'clock. His, unbe 
lievably, insisted it was 6 A.M. It had been a miracle of precision and he 
put it to his ear to see if it had run down. But it was going. 

"Never did that before." He stared at it. Sorensen reached over. 
"Well," he said, "a watch that won't keep time isn't worth saving." He 
lifted an arm and aimed for a nearby stone wall. The watch dissolved 
against it. 



THE JESTER 311 

Its owner went white and moaned audibly as he got to his knees 
and fumbled In the ruins in what seemed a vain hope that the damage 
was not irremediable. 

"You shouldn't have done it, Charlie/* remonstrated Mr. Ford. 

Sorensen had a moment of contrition. 

"It was a fool thing for me to do, Kling," he said to the man 
pawing the ground for the dispersed fragments but got only a stabbing 
glance. Silently, Klingensmith went on with his salvaging. The party 
walked off the dock, leaving him picking over weeds and gravel and 
putting what pieces he could find in a handkerchief. He joined the rest 
of the party for lunch but sat sullenly through it, accepting mock sym 
pathy with a grunt, scowling at Sorensen. He had not quite recovered 
a week later when in going through a suit at his home he found his 
watch unscarred in a pair of trousers where Ford had asked Mrs. 
Klingensmith to put it, 

Mrs. Ford wanted pie tins in an early day. She asked him to 
bring home some. He forgot and she reminded him. It slipped his mind 
and she persisted. The business went along in this fruidess fashion for 
weeks, she recalling her need periodically, he steeped in making cars 
and not remembering. And then one day it struck him that Mrs. Ford 
had been asking him to drop in some place and get some pie tins for 
her. He landed home with the pleased air of a man who always could 
be trusted to do any errand a wife wanted done. 

"Got your tins/' he announced as he came into the kitchen. 

He took her over to a back window and pointed to a earful. He 
had bought out a dealer's entire stock. His wife did not attempt to 
count them and may not have been too pleased by the windfall, he said, 
but he made sure no Ford unto the third generation would ever want 
for a baking pan. 

To some of his jocosities Ford gave a care which seemed out of 
proportion to the jape itself. A friend put a package on a chair in his 
office one mid-afternoon. He had no more set it down than the bundle 
gave off twittering evidence of life inside and Ford asked what he had 
there. 

It was a canary. He unwrapped the cage. It was a song-bird for 
his wife. Surely Ford remembered, or did he ? It was their twenty-fifth 
wedding anniversary. Ed, the visitor, remembered one thing very clearly 
that happened at the ceremony. 



312 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

He had gone to Henry during the evening and complained nerv 
ously that the boys had promised him and Ethel an old-time chivari and 
neither he nor his bride was looking forward to it with any relish. If 
he could sneak off if they only could get away somehow. Henry had 
said, "Come on out here," and had taken him by the arm to the kitchen 
and closed the door. 

"What you do," he said, "is take my car and you can get away from 
them." The bride and groom escaped and it being a day when horses 
far outnumbered horseless carriages, Henry and Mrs. Ford and Edsel 
went home on a streetcar. 

Ford said Ethel certainly would be pleased with the canary. They 
closed the subject and got on the purpose of the present visit. Then 
Ford switched to another new subject. "Say, we've got some new tweeds 
over in the tailor shop," he remarked. "Why don't you go on over before 
you leave and be measured for an anniversary suit so long as Ethel is 
getting the canary?" He said he would like to give Ed a suit in 
remembrance of the day. 

For years Ford patronized a tailor in a nearby university town 
and finally allotted him space for a sub-station in the engineering labora 
tory. When the tailor himself could not be at Dearborn an assist 
ant took care of Ford's mending, cleaning and general sartorial 
needs. 

Thereafter the grandee of Dearborn passed out suits to friends as 
John D. Rockefeller gave away dimes. It was not at all extraordinary 
for him to interrupt a conversation with an executive, a newspaper 
man or a visitor he knew well and ask him if he could use a new suit of 
clothes. "Just got a fine new shipment of herring-bone," he'd say. In an 
expansive moment he might even walk one over to Greenfield Village 
and have the cobbler measure one for a pair of shoes. 

His friend away to the tailor shop, Ford lost no time. He removed 
the canary from its. cage and tucked it gently in his pocket. He and a 
secretary rode off on, their bicycles, but when Ed came back from the 
tailor Ford was at his desk and Ed's package was wrapped as it had 
been originally. 

"A little present I thought you'd like," Ed said when he got 
home, putting the bundle on the library table. 

His wife seemed a little puzzled when she tore off a piece of 
paper and peeked in. 



THE JESTER 313 

"Why this Is nice, Ed 3 " she said, however, in a quick return to 
appropriate anniversary enthusiasm, "but how did you happen to think 
of it?" 

She swept off the last bit of wrapping. Ed was stunned and 
mystified. It wasn't the way he had planned it. This wasn't what he 
had bought. On the cross-bar where the canary had sung was an angry 
field sparrow bewildered by recent events. He had been minding his 
own business in the woods on the Ford farm when Mr. Ford himself 
descended on a bicycle, let loose a canary and snared him in what was 
a palpable kidnapping. The canary had flown off and Ford had stuffed 
him into this coop. He was unimpressed by the joke, wedding anni 
versary or not. He felt he certainly had a case for J. Edgar Hoover. 

It was fun for Ford to get Jep Bisbee's auto into the barn fun of 
another kind. A rural fiddler of Michigan was the beneficiary of 
some carpentry by probably the most expensive and celebrated crew of 
workers ever to swing a hammer at a nail head. 

The motormaker liked the Michigan farmer's home-made violin 
so well he gave him $100 and a car for it and was never near the Bisbee 
home that he did not drop in. He took Edison and Harvey Firestone, 
rubber magnate, with him on one visit and was pained to see the auto 
mobile standing out In bad weather when It seemed easy enough to 
run it into the barn. 

Why didn't Bisbee put it under cover? The farmer-fiddler 
pointed to an interfering brace across the opening of the barn about a 
foot off the ground. It was a hurdle too high for an automobile even if 
the horses and pigs could leap it all right. 

'Til tell you what to do, Jep build a ramp.'* Ford thought that 
with an incline the car could make it. Bisbee said he'd do it surely 
would. Ford said Jep was getting along in years and better go easy. 

"You get the planks and the rest of the stuff and we fellows 
will build it," he proposed as an alternative. 

The impromptu construction firm of Ford, Edison and Firestone 
built the ramp in a half hour and stood aside satisfied with themselves 
as Bisbee drove the car under its first roof. 

When Ford went to concert or theatre he might be wholly disin 
terested and only obliging, so he developed a habit of sitting without 
seeing $r hearing and wrestling inwardly with a shop problem or some 
interest^ more engaging than what Sir Thomas Beecham was doing at 



314 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

the podium or what Lunt was saying to Fontanne about the brat come 
home from Canada. 

Miss Helen Hayes was one of his favorites, however, but when he 
walked backstage with Mrs. Ford to say an appreciative word after 
Victoria Regina, Miss Hayes had not finished dressing and could only 
receive Mrs. Ford and anyway Mr. Ford was enamored, the stage crew 
remembered, of the business of striking the set and getting the flats into 
vans for the jump to Cleveland. 

A performer who captivated him appeared in Hellzapoppin'. 
During the New York World's Fair the Olson and Johnson revue was 
playing the Winter Garden and had a trick cyclist, Walter Nilsson, in 
the cast. Ford caught a matinee and was entranced by the low wheels 
and high wheels and square wheels and other mechanical contrivances. 

He wandered in again and again. He wanted to see the machines 
close up and the management agreed not to embarrass him by clowning 
or to capitalize the visit by publicity if he wanted to come back of the 
curtain. He caused the performers more uneasiness, in fact, than they 
did him. f 

The Ford interest was news to Nilsson. He was getting out of 
make-up when a woman's voice at the door said, "Walt, Henry Ford is 
asking to see you." 

"Going to understudy you," the young lady guessed pertly. 
"Going to take your place on the road." 

Ford told the bicyclist he was interested in his machines and 
would he mind if he looked at them up close. The freak miscellany 
stood in racks against the rear wall of the showhouse unicycles of 
varying heights, a machine known to its owner as a Swedish egg-beater 
and consisting of a single three-inch steel sprocket with a chain connect 
ing vertically with a larger sprocket with pedals three feet above it, the 
whole surmounted by a motorcycle saddle; a single 28-inch wooden 
disk with pedals on each side, a bicycle with square wheels. 

"Now that's the one for me," Ford bent over to inspect the last 
freak closer. Enthusiasm engulfed him. He asked how it would be if he 
rode it around the stage as Nilsson did in the show. Unicycles he had 
ridden, but a square-wheeled bike was a new experience. 

The management had no wish to see Mr. Ford break his neck 
in the purlieus of the Shuberts, but neither did it want to spoil his fun 
if he thought he could get any by riding a lap on the trick bike. It 



THE JESTER 315 

required considerable verbal maneuvering to dissuade the seventy-year- 
old guest. He merely sat in the saddle and was photographed. Some 
night, he hinted darkly, he would come In a skylight when the timid 
cast and the Shuberts were in bed and get In that ride, but he never did. 
He was quite sure he could have ridden it. 

"Bring it out to Detroit when you play there/ 7 he persisted to 
Nilsson. "You and your wife come to see me." 

"How does anyone get to you?" The bicyclist had an idea that 
crashing the gate was hardly that simple. "You telephone Campsall [a 
Ford secretary] and 111 be waiting out in front," said Ford. "Now be 
sure to come.'* 

Nilsson wasn't In the road show that played the motor city but 
Ford made sure of it he telephoned the theater personally to check. 

When a niece graduated at eighteen and in valedictorian wisdom 
pasted big business for failure to pull the country out of the depres 
sion, those about Ford In the commencement audience looked to see how 
he took It, but no one applauded more heartily and when the exercises 
were ended he was first at the stage to tell his young niece lavishly that 
hers was "the best address I ever heard." 

The overlord of Dearborn was more surprising than ever sur 
prised. He seemed insulated against shock. When Bandmaster Fred 
Waring's son was a few weeks old, Waring was under contract for a 
series of programs for the motor company. Answering his buzzer one 
day, there stood his boss on an unannounced call. 

The Warings moved about panic-stricken to straighten up the 
place a little but made the mistake of handing the un-housebroken 
Waring to Ford to tend. The usual catastrophe occurred and Ford 
found himself the chalet de necessite. The Warings could only groan 
and make fluttering movements with their hands. 

"Don't worry." Ford was quite soothing. "Edsel used to act this 
way as a baby though of course I never did myself," he said, and saved 
the situation completely with laughter. 

Long before the King of England abdicated, before he had come 
even to the throne and was a house guest of the Edsel Fords, there was 
another story current in the same classification, possibly apocryphal. 

The children were packed off to bed on the strength of a 
promise that just possibly between dances the royal guest might come to 
see them if they behaved and made no disturbance. His Royal High- 



316 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

ness himself expressed a wish to visit the grandchildren of Henry Ford 
and was taken upstairs, but behind the door was tumult and sustained 
laughter. The knob was turned and there was a strained quiet. Prince 
Charming had arrived and two pairs of earnest eyes riveted on him. 
The stillness was short lived, however. Merriment broke out anew. 

"What is this all about?" asked their father. One pointed to the 
other. "He was so excited he threw up," he announced. The Fords 
were a trifle uncomfortable but their visitor was not. 

"Quite a few people do," His Royal Highness said gravely to the 
youngster accused. 

But a grandchild shook Henry Ford's poise. A joke backfired. 
They were dining alone at a golf club and he took the child's unfinished 
ice cream when he was not looking and hid it behind a bowl of flowers. 
It was not a happy maneuver. The dessert gone when he turned back to 
his plate, the child let out a whoop which drew the attention of the 
entire dining room. Ford sheepishly put one hand over the open mouth 
and with the other retrieved the dish he had taken and put it back where 
it decidedly belonged. 

Fenders shredded, panels initialed in the freshman manner and 
the score of the last football game painted on the radiator, two young 
sters on a Pennsylvania road were trying to coax a wreck of a Model T 
into action. Riding past, the dean of a university Ford was about to visit 
called his attention to the stalled car with hieroglyphics on the body., 
and the reaction of the guest of honor was totally unexpected. He low 
ered the car window. 

"Get a horse!" he craned out and saluted the cranking boys. One 
of them looked up and put a finger to his nose and took it down quickly 
when he saw it was the dean's automobile. 

Ford's second reaction was wholly inexplicable. It might have 
been that he regretted the impulse and the seedy catcall. He asked the 
driver to stop. He fished in a pocket and got out a shabby note book 
which was a hodgepodge of scrawled "musts" intelligible only to him. 
A new line to nudge his memory went into it. 

The owner of the defunct roadster received an unbelievable 
letter ten days later. It was from the college town's Ford agency and 
said if the owner of the jalopy, Pennsylvania license No. So-and-So, 
would present himself, the agency would be glad to take in his car in 
even trade for a new model. No explanation was given. Ford simply had 



THE JESTER 317 

taken the number on the plates, had it checked for ownership, issued 
orders. It seemed merely another impulse of an unpredictable man. 

No one more than the man under the spray of lilies about whom 
it was told would have appreciated more a story current after the body 
of Ford was borne from church into packed streets a few months ago. 
It was credited to one of the bearers. He had heard, it was said, light 
tapping inside the flowered casket as the procession moved from nave 
to door and had thought, listening carefully, he heard Mr. Ford's 
voice. 

"Put this thing on wheels and lay off six men," the familiar voice 
was saying in its old demanding way. 

If Ford heard it he liked it a Ford joke at the very end. He also 
would have recognized in it a tale spun twenty years before to burlesque 
his concern for wasted manpower. 



Hist/ He's German horn real- 
ly > his name Kort; lie is plot 
ting to restore the Russian 
throne; lie will give a car free 
to any girl who doesn't })olo 
Jier liair. 



CHAPTER XX 
MYTHS 



RUMORS YOWLED nightly under Henry Ford's window. 
Myths overflowed the filing cabinets. Some he inspired himself 
for deviltry or for no other purpose than to win a stickful of 
type well positioned in the day's news. Others had stems in 
the pretended ability of persons remote from the scene who could tell, 
with extraordinary aplomb, exactly what he was going to do in advance 
of when he knew himself. They usually were as wrong as they were 
prolific. 

Henry Ford, a German, really came from Poland and was known 
there as "the master with the golden hands" ... he had taken a 
palatial villa on the Mediterranean littoral which once housed Victoria, 
and was plotting with royalists to restore the throne of Russia ... he 
would sell sixty-five cars on his sixty-fifth birthday for a dollar apiece 
... a star in the night sky was not a new celestial debutante at all but 
a memorial light to Thomas A. Edison that Ford had hoisted in the 
inventor's honor. 

He had built a Maginot line of subterranean caves in which he 
proposed to fight unionization and had so wired the plant that no one 
could come or go if he switched on the current. The sprinkler system 
was ready to spray tear gas on any interloper. 

He wore a red tie when he was mad and going into battle . , . 
he would give cars free to all mothers, of twins ... he was taking in 
structions from a Catholic prelate ... he would pay a million dollars 

318 



MYTHS 319 

for a tip on how to reduce the price of his car a dime. He Intended to 
give away 15 per cent of his fortune to lower his tax load, and swindlers, 
for a price, offered to get your name on the preferred list of beneficiaries. 
He was dickering for Plymouth Rock. 

None of these reports was any more true than a rumor of the 
early thirties that Henry and Edsel Ford were most angry at Senor 
Diego Rivera, Mexican muralist, and his conception of the dynamic 
capital of the automobile industry on the respectable walls of the Detroit 
Art Institute. It was rumored that Ford would sue, at the very least, and 
would ask that some allegedly sacrilegious symbolism be painted 
over. 

If what occurred in Detroit did not infuriate the Fords and 
bring the painter to proper penalty against a wall, it was said they cer 
tainly would never pardon a panel which the Senor had done for a 
museum in his homeland and which was said to show the senior Ford 
and Rockefeller starving on gold and "depicting your father," a com 
plainant said in a direct appeal to Edsel Ford, "as a leering wine-bibbing 
stockbroker with one hand fondling ticket tape and the other with a 
glass of champagne pledging the health of a young woman not his wife." 
This was the crowning aspersion and the Fords should go over and flog 
the fellow. 

Actually the cause celebre Rivera was a sample of slick press- 
agentry by which those of artistic perception and those who had none 
were incited to whale one another, and they did so more or less mag 
nificently. In a month of controversy 78,000 persons wedged into the 
museum and listened delighted to the cries of the embattled, an attend 
ance unequalled in the whole previous two years. 

The moment was ripe for Rivera. Times were hard. U. S. savings 
were gone or frozen. The new poor peddled apples, upper office win 
dows were diving boards and everyone nursed some wounds, smelled 
of arnica. The worst of the whirlwind had passed but the nation was 
still clinging to the nearest lamppost and reaching for a steadier foot 
hold. Into the shambles barged the heretical senor and a charming wife 
trigged in uncut amber. 

What happened in the next ten months to Mr. Rivera's two sepa 
rate contracts for frescoes, one with Edsel Ford and the other with 
John D. Rockefeller, Jr., seemed to prove a Ford possibly had in swoir 
fairc what a Rockefeller lacked. There was some dissimilarity in the 



3 2o THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

provocations but it still was hard to figure which had greater aggrava 
tion at the senor *s hands oil or motors. 

For Rockefeller the Mexican muralist painted a picture of Lenin; 
for the Detroit Art Institute, with the junior Ford footing the bill, 
the senor prepared some panels in which a gasping critic thought 
he saw a resemblance to Christ in a fat ugly child in a halo, and those 
who sided with and against the Senor locked in a battle royal that was 
welcome entertainment for many people at a time when they needed it 

most. 

At the height of the charges and counter-charges and assertions 
that the senior Ford was boiling I asked him in a break in the thunder 
if he had seen Rivera or the murals and he said "Who?" and "What 
murals?" 

I do remember he was pretty much excited, however, over a situa 
tion involving Orphan Annie. He loved Tarzan and Jiggs and Annie; 
to his soa he left Fra Lippo Lippi and Corot. He read aloud in a rich 
Irish brogue and Jiggs came to life as he did it. He sweated out 
Annie's grief and the staff had to bone to keep up with him. 

There was nothing elective about Annie. It was either cram or be 
flunked. Ford would quit a hot discussion at the luncheon table of a 
new $1,000,000 blast furnace to take a poll of what his executives thought 
of the latest test of her peerless character. One executive tried to bluff 
his way through a debate after he had been out of town several days and 
had taken a vacation from comic strips. Ford was not deceived. 

"I'm afraid you haven't seen the morning paper," he said, coldly, 
and turned to another executive who had a theory about poor Annie 
that made more sense. Associates said Mr. Ford never mentioned the 
Rivera murals and that if he did see them probably considered 
them cartoons several degrees inferior to Mr. Donald Gray's comic- 
strip. 

The senor was busy on his planking quietly stirring up the un 
suspected hell when the junior Ford telephoned Fred L. Black, their 
advertising manager, to drop into his office if he was not busy at the 
moment. 

Popular interest in the Detroit Art Institute was nil. The city 
fathers could see no votes in the relatively empty halls besides, the 
country was in a major depression and the relief load recorded a new 
high daily. The budget for art was butchered. The museum was con 
sidered by some people as a toy of the residents of Grosse Pointe and 



MYTHS 321 

Bloomfieid Hills, fashionable suburban colonies. If they want It let them 
pay for it. The silk-stocking camps, times being what they were, said 
the Institute was Mr. Ford's baby, as chairman of the City Art Com 
mission, and why shouldn't he foot the bill? Ford, who had originally 
put up $30,000, now found his personal outlay at the institute over 
-$100,000. He was paying the salaries of the director , curator and others; 
soon it would be the charwomen and janitors. The younger Ford 
thought the institute a community venture. 

"That's about the situation, Fred." He said he wanted Black to 
see what could be worked out to encourage public participation. 

The patronage of the institute consisted largely of ladles knocking 
about on gold-headed staves. Activities were limited to slimly attended 
meetings in an auditorium where by removing a few rows of seats there 
would have been room for basketball practice without disturbing any 
one. The staff prepared and read papers that were correct but hardly 
popular. Seldom was anyone in the place who lived in the backwash, 
and this hardly met Ford's ideas of a useful art museum. He wanted 
to get people into the place who did not point at canvases with a stick 
or lorgnette, knew scarcely one word of atelier jabber and yet might like 
pictures. 

The immediate outcome was a People's Museum Association of 
dollar members, then a lecture course of broader popular appeal. 
Rivera continued to balance his 300 pounds on his overhead runway _ 
and splash the garden court with color. Attendance picked up a bit 
but more was needed and then one day a panel demonstrating the 
process of vaccination horrified an observer. He was an Episcopal 
curate and he wrote sharply of his dismay. 

"This," he stormed, "is a caricature of the Holy Family." 

While recognizing the technical excellence, the Rev. Dr. Higgins 
objected to the spirit of Detroit as the murals portrayed it and 
thought that some of the work was as out of place as a jazz band in a 
cathedral, as he put it. 

"My chief objection is a panel of a fat ugly child being vacci 
nated by a doctor and nurse," the clergyman wrote. "The animals in die 
foreground and the halo about the head of the child suggest the Holy 
Family." 

Was this deliberate or a coincidence? Rivera said he always 
painted a child's hair as if it wore a halo. Dr. Higgins had no doubt 
in his mind what was intended. 



322 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"What," asked George F. Pierrot, a collaborator of Black, who 
also had a talent for publicity, "are we waiting for?" 

"What, indeed?" nodded his confederate. 

It was no time to be delicate and hide scandal. Clergymen and 
educators, critics and press were invited to the institute to see for them 
selves if Higgins was right and Rivera presumptuous. It was a lovely 
belligerent meeting. It would have made a fine Western. Sides were 
taken. The museum crackled with new electric air. Roads to the build 
ing were black. Even the staff, and in time the augmented guards, 
divided and suspected one another's critical honesty and political philos 
ophies. Attendance was 1200 before the clouds blew up; 16,000 packed 
the sedate halls the week after. 

"Frescoed biliousness! . . . No greater one has come since 
Michelangelo did the Sistine . . . Our city should have been dutifully 
alive before a foreign propagandist mutilated the tax-paid walls. . . . 
Long after critics die who now seem staggered in the face of great 
art, people will come from all over the earth to see them. . . . Shall 
Detroit belong to Detroiters, the legitimate heirs and respecters of our 
city's sane ideals, or surrender to a hired stranger from without its 
gates?" 

The press described the vaccination panel for the few who were 
not racing to the institute to see for themselves. A child was supported 
by a uniformed woman in a nurse's cap which some said was a nimbus. 
At the right was a doctor administering vaccine. Above were three 
scientists engaged in research "the three wise men." At the bottom 
some animals these, said Rivera, represented the source of vaccine; 
these, said the other side, represented the stable in Nazareth. 

Dr. G. H. Derry, president of a Catholic college, jumped in: 

"Wake, Detroit!" he exhorted. "The institute is attempting to sell 
out the best walls of the museum to an outside halfbreed Mexican 
Bolshevist. 

"Watch out, Ford! On the walls of the Public Education Building 
in Mexico City Rivera has told the world what he thinks of your father 
Henry. In a setting of wine and women he has pictured for posterity 
your father as a leering stockbroker. 

"Make no mistake, Mr. Ford, the Communist adores the ma 
chines if he, not you, owns them. It is not too late to turn back, Mr. 
Ford! Rivera means here, as in Mexico, to influence the workers to the 



MYTHS 323 

determination that tie way out is by the clenched fist that dynamites 
Ford and hie machines." 

When the city voted to accept Mr. Ford's gift of the $28,000 
murals, Higgins, the original complainant, said in the press he could 
not understand such blindness. "Rivera/* he said bitterly, "makes EdseJ 
Ford appear an enemy of capitalist society/* but the Fords seemed in 
terested less than any one else. 

A jeering editor said that the muralist must be a very dangerous 
fellow since what he had done showed sympathy for the people who 
did the heavy work of the world. 

"Have we got something?" Pierrot enthused. 

"Maybe I had better see Mr. Ford," said Black, slightly uneasy 
at the forked lightning. 

"Seems you have a wildcat by the tail," said Edsel, not at all ill- 
naturedly. "Do you think it's getting out of hand?" 

Black didn't think so. 

To those who said his faces lacked spiritual content, Senor Rivera 
was curt: "Steel and stone are cold. Every day I see cars and people. 
I put into my pictures only what I see." 

To the critical clergy he said, aciduously: "Now we have the 
curious spectacle of two religious organizations of European origin one 
of which openly avows allegiance to a foreign potentate while the other 
has deep roots in alien soil stirring up the people against what they call 
un-American invention." 

And what was the un-American invention? Nothing but a pic 
torial representation, said the Senor, of the basis on which Detroit existed 
and the source of its worth, painted by a direct descendant of an abo 
riginal American stock. 

When one or another abusive one seemed to be silent and catch 
ing a fresh breath, it always seemed that Black or his partner would 
sidle up soft-footedly and whisper, "You're not going to let him get 
away with that, are you? Take a poke at him." 

They got a bit of added help from the belated discovery of a 
marble disc in the controversial panels, and those expert in symbolism 
said it was religion pressing on the people. 

The drums ceased pounding in time and Rivera left Detroit to 
astonish Mr. Rockefeller by producing his picture of Lenin in the 
precincts of the Fifth Avenue Center. No one apparently had thought 



324 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

to say what was wanted or to ask what he intended to paint under the 
innocent enough over-all title, "Man at the Cross-Roads," 

The Fords shut their mouths during the bushwhacking at De 
troit. The senior Ford said nothing, although Orphan Annie was having 
her ups and downs. His son spoke only twice. In the heat of the affray 
he was pressed for comment on the frescoes and was asked i he thought 
they interpreted Detroit industry faithfully. 

"They are Mr, Rivera's interpretation/' he responded crisply. 

For a half hour he listened to a councilman condemn the panels 
as an offensive travesty. Then the son of a very adamant father said 
stoutly it would be as out of place for him to ask Rivera to change his 
paintings at the request of any religious or political group as it would 
be for the Commission to remove the many crucifixes, religious paint 
ings and church relics from the institute if it was found they gave 
offense to Jews, orthodox Christians "or the thousands who have no 
interest in any church." He sat down and was voted a budget increase. 

With Rivera exciting New York, calm deepened in Detroit. It 
was deeper at Dearborn. I tried to get the senior Ford to express an 
opinion but Orphan Annie was in another pocket fighting for the right. 

"I think I'll write him," Mr. Ford said. 

"Rivera?" 

Ford looked as if he never heard of the upsetting Senor. 

"To the fellow who draws Annie/' He said the trouble artist 
Donald Gray had gotten her into worried him. 

Rumors snapped persistently at Ford's heels. Some were small, 
some elaborate; most were egregious lies which the company never both 
ered to affirm or deny and never brought to Ford's attention. 

He was not going to buy the French navy, no. 

He was not trying to raise the American birth-rate by offering a 
Ford car free to aay woman bearing eleven children or more, no. 

The rumors of how he proposed to wage war against unioniza 
tion had dime novel overtones. He had built under the River Rouge 
plant, it was said, an endless catacomb in which a Ford army could hold 
out for months in the coming struggle with the iniquitous forces of 
the UAW-CIO. 

"Through these tunnels of steel and concrete," the magazine 
Friday told the public, "it would be possible to march units of strike 
breakers to invade any given position, Supplies could be carried through 



MYTHS 325 

to scabs. Caches of arms could be concealed along the tunnels. It could 
actually become a fortified line over night." 

"Could be," "would be possible," "could actually become" 
nothing more definite. The story was a safe piece of distortion but as 
much buncombe as Ford said history was. The underground tubes 
*'could" have been used for such a warlike purpose but were not de 
signed for it. If there was any secrecy about the subterranean network, 
the company had a strange way of preserving it. The mayor of Detroit, 
other officials and press representatives were driven through it in auto 
mobiles years before the passageways were seized upon by thrill- 
mongers. 

No shots or ambuscades were ever reported in the tubes. When 
the company negotiated with the labor union and signed a more lib 
eral contract than the union had been able to win from any other 
company in the industry, it did so around an orderly conference table 
and not in any underground cavern. No proof of tear gas in any 
sprinkler system was ever offered. 

Three farmers walked into an East Poland newspaper shop one 
late afternoon and assured the editor that Henry Ford came of a 
German family named Kort. They were Gustave, 80; Robert, 75, and 
Julian, 73, and the American magnate, they said, was their baby brother, 
bless his heart and gifted hands. 

The editor seemed to require no more than this oral proof for he 
patted Poland on the back in the next edition as the scene of Ford's 
beginning and added his name to those of such distinguished sons 
as Pilsudski, Paderewski and Kosciuszko, putting the tale on the 
cables. 

The story was that Henry, beloved brother of the editor's three 
strays, was one of ten Kort children who had moved to a town near 
the Russian frontier from a small place in the Reich. He had become 
an apprentice and then a full-fledged mechanic, and demonstrated such 
skill that someone with a gift for musical sobriquet dubbed him mistrz 
o zlotych repack, or master with the golden hands. From puttering 
about machines Henry Kort turned to invention and the first thing 
one knew he had produced a piece of machinery which magically 
carried a half-ton load from Mantchulme to Volowitz, a good ten 
kilometers, on only four pounds of gasoline. 

"We were stuck for a name for it at first, 5 * Gustave admitted. 



326 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"But the people/' Julian remembered vaguely, "finally called It 
What was It, Robert?" 

"The iron falcon/' prompted Robert. 

Yes, indeed, that was it the iron falcon all three recalled and 
nodded in agreement. 

Good people predicted Henry was bound for great things if he 
would shake off the mud of the town and the brothers said, without 
being too explicit as to dates, that the daring Henry eventually did just 
that, sold out his fields, and set off for distant America where the 
sequel was of course known to everyone. 

Gustave, Robert and Julian, having gulled the editor, went back 
to their farm at Konstanttinova. American newspapers telephoned 
Dearborn for confirmation of the story, a peculiar contradiction of 
proven fact, and Ford's editor was busy for days saying blandly, "Never 
heard of the gentlemen" or more desperately, "It sounds very corny 
to me." 

Ford had backed his advertising department on the ropes in 
1932 when he unexpectedly stated it was not true that he made his first 
car in 1893, a year date used regularly over a long period in official 
biographies and general publicity. 

The little rebuilt brick shed In which the first Ford car was made 
was to be reproduced at the Chicago Century of Progress and the 
automobile itself was to be the centerpiece of the display. His advertis 
ing men were preparing suitable material and some of it was read 
to him. 

"That's wrong," he said when the 1893 date was mentioned. 

The challenge threw everybody. For years it had appeared and 
never been doubted. 

"I made my first car in 1896," he corrected. "I made my first 
engine in 1893." 

A brilliant star in the summer sky which was first appraised as a 
newcomer to the evening constellation and then called fake and at 
tributed to Ford hit the front pages in 1935, not long after an interest 
ing fiction from Florida that he was about to root up an old Seminole 
Village in the Everglades and ship it, stone ovens, marshy ground and 
all, to Greenfield. 

Brooding over a flood of mail the Detroit Chamber of Commerce 
denied that any heavenly body was in production or even on the draw- 



MYTHS 327 

ing board, that so far as it knew the star was legitimate, but inquiring 
letters continued to stream in from the countryside, even to one from 
a Louisiana dynamo who saw commercial possibilities in the "star** 
and wanted to know by return mail if it was on the market and avail 
able in quantity. 

A room in Washington stilled one morning when Mrs. Ford 
got up to speak and an audience of women hunched forward slightly 
in their chairs. Interest was sharpened by what seemed a current grass 
roots boom for Henry Ford for the Presidency of the United States and 
the speaker about to address the national officers of the Girls* Pro 
tective League was a likely first lady. All sorts of rumors were current 
in 1923 as to whether her husband would choose to run. 

Mrs. Ford moved quickly and frankly to clarify her position in 
the general political speculation. She said in view, of the confusion of 
rumors it would please her if at least a hundred women in the country 
those before her knew the truth. 

"Mr. Ford," she said, "may believe he would make a good Presi 
dent but I don't and I have told him so. I don't think he will be nomi 
nated and I do not believe he will run.*' 

As a political prognosticator Mrs. Ford put herself among the 
better prophets for Ford later announced he was not a candidate but 
was for Calvin Coolidge. 

"Moreover/* she smiled in conclusion as if she remembered ex 
actly the moment when she put her foot down, "I have told my hus 
band that if he comes to Washington he comes without me." 

The audience smiled with her. 

"Now, may I go from here and drop politics?" she suggested and 
turned to the subject of what to do for troubled youngsters of her own 
sex who might need help. She had quieted the whisperers and espe 
cially a fluttery lady who absurdly before the meeting had called her 
"Madame President.** 

The whispering grew with his dollars. He was seeking a $60,000,- 
ooo rail outlet to the Atlantic Seaboard ... he was negotiating for the 
imperial jewels of China ... he intended to make automobiles of 
cotton, stamping them out as a baker might cut doughnuts. 

He had offered to assume the whole German loan of $110,000,000 
under the Dawes plan ... he was considering a polar flight, and also 
might become the grand pasha of the Anti-Saloon League forces . . . 



328 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

he planned to become the greatest ship operator of his day by purchasing 
400 vessels from the United States Shipping Board. 

Edsel arrived at the engineering laboratory at 6:30 A.M., and his 
father only a few minutes later, the morning a wire service carried a 
bulletin out of Buffalo which quoted a shipping commissioner on the 
400-boat deal. The son wanted to know what brought me at that hour. 

I asked what he knew about the ship deal. 

"Father hasn't said anything to me." Edsel seemed puzzled. "All 
I know is that 400 is an awful lot of ships."' 

The arriving senior Ford said he wasn't going to be the greatest 
shipowner in the world. He also said that 200 had been the figure men 
tioned but 400 was all right. Four hundred would cost less to cut up 
on the average. 

"Cut up?" 

"Buying them for scrap," Ford said. 

An uncommon report was that girls who did not bob their hair 
would get cars with Mr. Ford's compliments. Go to the salesrooms, 
present acceptable proof and receive an automobile for nothing it was 
going to be made easy. A misinformed young woman in New Mexico 
picked up a fancier version. 

"I take the liberty of writing you," she said, "in regard to your 
ad in the paper about giving cars to the few girls who have not bobbed 
their hair and do not wear knickers. I am one who has long hair," she 
palpitated, "and can truly say I never sat in or on a pair of knickers 
in my life." 

A male correspondent, a Joseph Greese of Texas, had another 
rendering which set up still more exacting terms. The car was free, he 
heard, to any woman who had twins in addition to an undipped head. 
The Lone Star husband buttered the entry of his wife by reporting that 
she fulfilled both terms and the children had been named "Henry" and 
"Edsel." Mrs. Greese promised never to shorten her hair if she could 
have a runabout. 

While not more than a handful of these fictions reached Ford's 
ears, he was interested in a protest of a Mississippi male over the seem 
ing favoritism shown women in the reputed contest, if contest is the 
word. He said, special delivery and notarized, that he had a full beard. 
If Mr. Ford did not think he had a tough time raising it, he should 
try it himself. He said it took a great deal o stamina. 



MYTHS 329 

"If you are giving automobiles to unbobbed girls, I think my 
beard deserves consideration/' the Mississippian pleaded, "for I certainly 
have been ridiculed more than any girl who has let her hair grow.'* 
He had been called a Bolshevik. He had been taunted as an anarchist. 

"I forgot to tell you, Mr. Ford," he concluded, "about the time I 
am having with my wife." It seems that his wife had not bobbed her 
hair but had threatened to if he did not shave. It put him in a pickle, 
"And she pulls my whiskers/' he sobbed in ending, "and you know that 
is no fun at all." 

A Georgia miss by the name of Ford understood only ladies o 
that name could qualify and two in Arkansas considered their entry 
particularly challenging because neither wore spit curls or bangs. 

The rumor mail bore unfamiliar postmarks towns the size of 
the motormaker's own before country clubs and model homes and sky 
ways and ramps flowered as he spread. They came from Mountaincrest, 
Ark.; Darling, Miss.; Farmers* Branch, Texas; Forrestville, Ky., and the 
like and they were signed by sincere, well-intentioned people who appar 
ently were hospitable to rumor and put out the guest china whenever a 
vagabond tale knocked at the door. Credulity dwelt as much in the 
city, however, as in the hayloft. 

Ford would launch a chain of 400 radio stations for business and 
political purposes ... he was going to Palestine personally to drum up 
business ... he would buy the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railroad, 
abandon Dearborn as a home and take over the estate of Brewer Jacob 
Ruppert at Rhinecliffe on the Hudson ... he would buy an interest in 
the Philadelphia Athletics. 

An automobile could be had free if you found a mysterious hard- 
to-get number in a package of Camels and also by forming the word 
Ford from serial letters on American coins. We heard this many 
years ago but after accumulating Fs and Ds and coming on no Os and 
Rs put it down as a trick and spent the F-D money on some forgotten 
vice. 

He would replace without charge any flivver that had been on the 
road more than ten years. He was bringing out a horn which sounded 
like a human voice. Ford was barely in his grave beside his forebears 
before a rumor spread that a man could get a new Ford car in trade 
for a 1943 copper penny. (Only steel-zinc pennies were minted in 1943.) 
Little of the drifting jetsam was true, but the report he would pay 



330 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

$100 for any fliwer joke that made him laugh brought him thousands. 
He thought well of one he made up himself and told the late Woodrow 
Wilson. The President repaid him by repeating a jingle about the car 
but Ford was not amused and never would repeat it. 

His own joke involved a man who saw another digging an enor 
mous grave one big enough to hold an automobile and asked the 
shoveler why he was making it so big. It was for a man who had died, 
the digger said, and wanted his Ford buried with him. 

"He said the Ford always got him out of every hole he got into," 
he explained, "and he thought he could count on it to get him out of 
this one." 

Ford would paper the sky with flivver planes . . . M-G-M would 
do a romanticized life of him with Spencer Tracy as the automobile- 
maker ... he had bought two whaling ships for no given reason . . . 
on the strength of a visit of a New York banker it was whispered Ford 
would join the directorate of his institution, and the asking price of the 
stock advanced $35 in five days . . . Europe reported that Ford would 
join with Chrysler in a life-and-death struggle with General Motors. It 
was news to Detroit. 

"What's that?" asked Economist Roger W. Babson, pointing to 
a mound of putty-like substance in the laboratory. 

"Glue, cotton and formaldehyde," Ford identified the elements. 

What was he going to do with it? Make automobiles? Copy 
desks headed it: "Cotton Car Next; Steel Car on Junk Pile" with a 
jauntiness which suggested the car of cotton would be in showrooms as 
soon as the next edition reached the streets. 

I was tipped one day that Ford was in the market for a railroad 
whose depressed securities were far from high grade. 

"Where did you get the report?" the Ford office asked. 

"The vice-president of a bank." 

"Who?" 

I named him. 

"About that deal," said .the spokesman after inquiry, "Mr. Ford 
had made no overtures for that road and has no intention of buying it." 

The company assigned some of its own investigators. They 
learned that the bank official was personally long of the stock of the 
consumptive road and the fable he was peddling was designed to create 
an improved market for his holdings. 



MYTHS 331 

The same motive was behind another rumor involving a Pitts 
burgh company. With Ford taking part, very hush-hush conferences 
were reported and the guess was that the company would soon pass to 
his ownership. However, a few contradictions developed. He had not 
been in Pittsburgh for a year and a half. Neither he nor any agent 
had called on the company named. No offer had been made or was 
being considered. It was true there was such a glass company and that 
was about all except that on the strength of the gossip the stock of the 
glass company thrust upward sharply and it was assumed that insiders 
got out on the bulge. 

The Chicago Bureau o the Associated Press asked Detroit one 
midnight to see if anything had happened to Ford. St. Paul was asking 
confirmation of a report of his death which had reached it in curious 
fashion. 

Ford's editor said the motormaker was well so far as he knew. 
He was presumably en route to his properties in Northern Michigan. 

"I'll call if I get anything different," he said, and asked the re 
porter to telephone him if the newspaper got any more information. 

Ford was asleep in his berth while the night air crackled with 
alarums, but he was interested when he heard of it. It was not the first 
or last time he was reported dead, but it was the only time he bothered 
to order a tracer. He wanted to know who made up such tales and put 
wheels under them. The answer was this: 

An operator in a railroad tower in Wisconsin had noticed Ford's 
private car on a passing train and mentioned the fact to a friend over 
the wire, merely remarking that Ford had just passed. A third man at 
an open circuit happened to pick up the conversation but misread the 
message. He thought the first telegrapher had said: "Henry Ford has 
just passed on." He told a friend of his at another key. The message 
took wings. 

A St. Paul newspaper operator, also at an open circuit, suddenly 
heard two unidentified operators gossiping. 

One was saying: "Joe* did you hear Henry Ford died?" 

The other said: "What do you know!" 

The first said: "J ust picked up a flash. It only said he passed 
on, nothing more." 

St. Paul's demand on Chicago and Detroit for a quick check 
followed. 



Gentle and hard, direct and 
devious, it was impossible to 
guess what Ford would do 
hut the surest het was it would 
he the unexpected. 



M:i 
: 



CHAPTER XXI 
MERCURIAL MAGNATE 



INOR PROOF of major facets of Ford's character lay all 
about. Ford, the kindly Samaritan, walked arm in arm 
with Ford, the demanding; Ford, the devious and capri 
cious, rode tandem with Ford, the straightforward and 
simple. He moved easily from rnood to mood. 

A saying in Dearborn used to be that if the first three birds he 
saw of a morning were black, all birds would be black that day, but 
this implied consistency and any soothsayer asked for trouble who tried 
to say how Ford would act in any given set of circumstances. 

Few flat statements about him stand up. The minute one de 
scribes him as gentle and humble a hundred incidents negate it. An 
unqualified statement that he was harsh and overbearing can be dis 
proved by a hundred to the contrary. He was actually the customary 
mixture of man's good and reprehensible characteristics. They were 
simply more noticeable in him because of who he was. 

Some of his convictions were iron so were some of his whirns. 
He was fiercely unwilling to give up the Model T to admit the world 
had come to want some color other than black and more to an automo 
bile than utility. He could not rest on his oars and keep business volume, 
he was told, unless the government allowed the customer no choice of his 
own, as in a totalitarian state, or he, in free enterprise, could somehow 
destroy all competition. A few of his bolder executives said so; the 
meeker ones waited to see how the "old man" would jump and jumped 
with him. The senior Ford was usually immarbled by opposition. 

332 



MERCURIAL MAGNATE 333 

The story Is that while he was in Europe two executives who had 
lined up for change turned out an experimental car of comely curves 
and markedly dissimilar to the veteran Model T. They guided him to 
where it was when he arrived back and stood aside to await the verdict. 

"Well, what do you think, Mr. Ford?" he "was asked as they 
looked admiringly on their own handiwork. 

The senior Ford reached for a work-bench. 

"This!" he said a wrench crashed through the windshield. 

He could be equally obstinate in small things. He persistently did 
the untried yet often resisted it. When old-time telephone instruments 
were being replaced by cradle sets months elapsed before he would 
permit the substitution of one of them for one of his own. The japan 
ning was gone and the old piece was an eyesore. An installation crew 
rushed to replace it. 

"No, you don't," Ford vetoed promptly. He said he was able to 
understand people perfectly and they seemed to hear him all right over 
the dilapidated equipment. He would wait, as some people did on new 
cars, until the bugs were found and squashed. 

An interesting phenomenon was that Ford seldom fired anybody 
personally unless very mad and no one but an inexperienced executive 
ever attributed an order to him, and he never did it a second time. 
Under the system men discharged on his instructions wandered about 
for years blaming the men who carried out the orders and quite sure 
if Mr. Ford had known, he would have stepped in and stopped it. 
This left him in a position to say he knew nothing of the ousting of 
an employee, if that is what he wanted, or to escape onus if an order 
he gave did not turn out well. 

He also had a common tendency to believe the most preposterous 
story of a man he knew to be a liar if what was said coincided with 
what he thought. 

When his son had an unpleasant job to do he did it himself. It 
was necessary to choose between two veteran members of the teaching 
force of a school and let one go. The junior Ford was chairman of the 
trustees. The problem was threshed out and it was decided to release 
the man oldest in service. No one looked forward with anything but 
regret to telling the instructor selected that he was out. 

"Mr. Ford," said a trustee, "can I relieve you of that job? Would 
you care to have me break the news to him?" 



334 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"No, no," said the younger Ford, quickly. "I guess it's one of my 
duties as chairman." He added slowly, "I always do my dirty work." 

A construction man laying out a tail race at a Ford mill learned 
in peculiar fashion that no order was to be ascribed to the head man. 
A winding channel was adapted for the work. Ford said he did not 
want it straightened it would look too artificial so the natural course 
was followed and the bottom and banks were floored and faced with 
close-set stone. Some earth became loosened from the roots of a tree 
on one bank and fell away, and the contractor, after replacing it, also 
used stone about the base of the trunk. The job scarcely had been 
finished when two emissaries arrived from the Rouge, apparently to 
see how the work was going. 

"Who told you to fix the stream that way?" one of the visitors 
wanted to know. 

"Mr. Ford." 

"I suppose he also told you to lay those stones around the tree?" 

"No," the contractor took off his cap and scratched his head, 
"that's my own idea. I think it's going to work all right, too." 

A telephone call from a farm some ten miles away a week later 
said Henry Ford was there and wanted to see him. Ford was in a 
dudgeon. 

"Never, never tell anyone I ever gave you an order!" he stormed, 
gravel in his tone. "Understand?" 

The contractor said he got the idea. 

"That's all!" The blue Ford eyes snapped the blue eyes that the 
editor Brisbane had admired because he said that any man who ever 
amounted to anything in historyLincoln, Napoleon, Washington, 
Jefferson, Edison had them. 

The man who built the race lived uneasily with his puzzle but 
when Ford reappeared two weeks later the incident appeared forgotten. 
They drove over the property and stopped on a knoll. Ford said he 
wanted a cupola built on that barn. 

"Mr. Ford, you'll have it," the employee promised with alacrity. 
He asked a few questions but suddenly sensed he was talking to him 
self. Ford's memory had rolled back 14 days. 

"No, never mind." The motormaker cancelled the instructions. 
"I'll have someone else give you the order," he said. His man was 
still on the probationary list for the lapse of two weeks previous. 



MERCURIAL MAGNATE 335 

His deviousness was stunning at times. Messmore Kendall, 
lawyer, angler and explorer who lives in Washington's headquarters at 
Dobbs Ferry and financed Somerset Maugham's first play, is authority 
for one story of Ford's circuitousness. 1 

Before the closed car became commonplace, Kendall imported a 
Rolls-Royce with a patented top which could be raised or lowered by 
a crank. He decided upon a friend's advice to see if he could interest 
the Detroit manufacturer. After lunch with father and son he accom 
panied them to where the car was parked and offered to demonstrate 
the foreign equipment 

"Mr. Ford brusqely declined/' writes Kendall, * and changed 
the subject to a collection of American glass. He asked if I would 
examine it and tell him what I thought it was worth. 

"Jules Glaenzer (the friend who accompanied Kendall) and I 
did as bid. I soon became absorbed in the collection and Jules finally 
sauntered over to a window. Suddenly he cried, 'Messmore, come here!' 

"I joined him. He pointed to our car just leaving the parking 
space with Mr. Ford alone at the wheel. We watched him drive a few 
blocks to an open space, stop, and make his own demonstration of the 
top's operation. He lowered it and closed it a half-dozen times, got 
back in the car, and returned it to its identical parking spot." 

At the end of an hour Kendall, Glaenzer and Edsel reported 
back to the senior Ford. The hopes of the first two were now high. 
Undoubtedly after what they had seen, Ford was definitely interested 
in the equipment of the Rolls, or so they thought. Kendall told what 
he thought the glass was worth. 

"Much too high," Ford shook his head. 

"What's the asking price?'* 

"About half that." 

Kendall said he was really no expert but that he considered the 
figure he had arrived at was fair. Ford rose. The interview was ap 
parently over. The visitors waited for a word about the accessory on 
the Rolls. Kendall decided to chance a question. Pretending no knowl 
edge of Mr. Ford's own overseen experiment, he asked if he would be 
allowed to demonstrate the auto top. 

"No," said Ford definitely, 'Tm not interested in seeing whether 
it works or not. Good afternoon." 

1 Never Let Weather Interfere, by Messmore Kendall, Farrar, Straus & Co. 



336 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

When Ford sued the Chicago Tribune at the end of World War I 
for calling him an anarchist and ignorant idealist, insiders were con 
vinced that he lost nothing by some able maneuvering behind the 
scenes. 

Paralleling for part of its course the main street of Mt. 
Clemens, Mich., scene of the trial, is the Clinton River, a few yards 
from the rear entrance to the courthouse. When certain long printed 
matter was being read into the trial record on hot days, counsel, news 
papermen and others cooled themselves on the bank of the stream. 
Ford himself and a member of his staff took walks, too. He carried 
a tape measure. 

He made a practice of standing on bridges and lowering one end 
of the tape until it just about touched the surface of the water. Some 
times it was done from one span, sometimes from another. It was 
quite provocative. Word of all this traveled to . town and elaborate 
rumors circulated. Henry Ford was taking measurements for some 
building he had in mind for Mt. Clemens. He was considering a dam 
and a hydro plant. Possibly there would be a branch factory not a 
big plant, of course, but one that would be a welcome addition to the 
town's limited industry certainly work for townspeople. 

The more hardy approached him. They were roundabout, 
naturally. Ford seemed glad to expatiate on water-power and the nice 
facilities present in Mt. Clemens. He did not say anything definite and 
they did not ask directly. He naturally would not speak out until the 
dotted line was signed, but they spread the word knowingly that there 
was more than pedestrianism in the walks up and down the Clinton. 
Ford simply said that water-power was a fine thing, but if word of all 
this did not reach the ears of the jury, it had to be stone deaf, and it 
wasn't that. 

After the verdict I remember several newsmen cornered a Ford 
engineer and asked straight out if Ford purposed any development in 
Mt. Clemens. He seemed surprised. Was Ford going to put up a 
power plant? Not that he knew of, 

"The countryside is too flat," he said. "If the waters were im 
pounded, good farmland would be flooded." The engineer was sure 
Ford had something else in mind. The reporters suspected that was 
true. 

There was nothing devious about him when he bought some 



MERCURIAL MAGNATE 337 

coal properties in West Virginia. They had hardly passed Into his hands 
when he heard that the men had to kneel at work in certain low 
galleries. 

'Td like some overalls,'* he told the former owners. 

They tried to talk him out o his obvious purpose. Even when 
he climbed into work clothes, a veteran miner guiding him up to the 
entrance did not think Ford was serious. He said they'd have to go 
on their hands and knees part of the trip, and his glance said he did 
not think the new owner was going to like it. 

"If you can I can," Ford said, and later as the roof lowered and 
his guide said, "This is it, Mr. Ford down on all fours," the motor- 
maker sat down on the floor of the mine and used his knuckles as 
ratchets to drag himself along on the seat of his pants. He learned 
a lot from the grueling journey. He learned more by having miners 
come to Dearborn and tell him what was wrong. 

Reform in his coal properties was in motion within a week. He 
cut cross lots to see that working and home conditions were improved. 
He issued orders and waited a month. Then he went to West Virginia, 
got into his blitz suit again, summoned up the same guide. 

"Let's go down again," he suggested, "and see how much we 
have to slide on our tails this time." 

Pay of his miners at one time was 59 per cent higher than the 
prevailing scale in the field and he claimed to be producing coal at a 
cost of only 8 per cent more than competitors in nearby areas. The 
daily wage average was $7 a day for eight hours when wages in the 
neighborhood for nine were $3.50 to $4.50. 

Over a job well done Ford rarely expressed satisfaction. That 
was what he paid for. If he got it he saw no reason to pin a decoration 
on the man who did it. Usually he dissolved conceit by conveying an 
impression that the deed was a mite shy of what he hoped for. He was 
a perfectionist himself he wanted others to be. The usual reward for 
a job well done was simply more work to do. 

Executives learned another lesson rapidly. If the head man sug 
gested he wanted a particular thing it was wise to move fast. If the 
assignee spent too much time getting information on how to do what 
was given him, he was likely to find that Ford had become impatient 
over the wait, put a second man at the task, and the job was finished or 
well along when the first man, beautifully primed, was ready to start. 



338 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

Subordinates also knew that while a mistake he committed himself 
could always be excused by some lesson he claimed he had learned, he 
could get awfully mad about something he agreed to which did not 
work out well. He gave the impression at such times that he had 
been roped into something against his own better judgment. 

He came up with one criticism nine years late. The excellent 
institution which became Henry Ford Hospital had its inception in the 
minds of a group of wealthy Michigan men who saw a need ol a 
general hospital in Detroit early in the century. It was to be built by 
popular subscription. After some money had been raised the drive for 
funds stalled and the project languished. A newspaper publisher 
thought to spur Ford as chairman of the finance committee and printed 
the names of the committee in his paper in blackface type. Mrs. Ford 
remarked on the article at dinner. 

"I see you're a financial failure/' she said. 

"What? What's that? 5 * her husband put down his fork. 

She read the story to him. It said the city or state probably would 
take over the hospital because of the inability of its private promoters 
to raise the necessary funds, and printed prominently was the name 
of Henry Ford as finance chairman. 

He said, "They're trying to make me look silly. Ill show them!" 

He would do it, he said, by giving subscribers their money back 
and building the place himself. The report was groundless that Henry 
Ford Hospital was its founder's protest against an excessive bill ten 
dered him after an illness of a member of his family. He paid $4,000,000 
for the work already done and to reimburse donors and assigned his 
secretary, Ernest G. Liebold, to complete the undertaking. 

Liebold visited top-ranking institutions through the country to 
get ideas. He recruited a staff. He assembled records for a corner-stone. 
Then he had to go out of town. He was feeling pretty good over the 
progress. This was the moment Ford chose for a ceremony. 

"Like to put down a corner-stone?" he invited Dr. S. S. Marquis. 
"Let's go up and lay the one at the hospital." 

The head of his sociological department asked if it should not 
wait until the secretary's return since he had done so much work on 
it and might like to be present but there was no challenging a Ford im 
pulse. He felt that morning like putting down a corner-stone. It was 
mortared into place without the usual tidbits that are the inescapable 



MERCURIAL MAGNATE 339 

stuffing of corner-stones. Ford either forgot them, did not know the 
proper records had been made ready, or considered the tradition non 
sense. He may have thought it unlikely that the world of the future 
would ever spend a single moment exploring moldy documents and 
faded pictures cached in such building blocks. It would have much 
more to do if It was going to get Itself straightened out. 

Liebold came home to a fait accompli and stoically filed the 
historical miscellany under "H-Hospital," Ford did not mention that 
the corner-stone had been laid; the secretary learned it for himself from 
other sources. The motormaker did find fault with the hospital orna 
mentation. 

Nine years later the secretary was instructed to meet him In 
front of the main building one morning and Ford was there when he 
arrived, glowering at some inset bands of terra cotta In the face of the 
building as outside trim between two lower floors to break the solid 
appearance of the wall. He pointed a crotchety finger. 

"Did you ever see anything that ever looked as rotten as that 
dung-brindle tile?" He stormed grimly. "What did you ever put that 
in for?" He said he wanted it out the next day. 

Occasionally such orders were held in abeyance on a chance that 
a mood would pass and Ford might forget. It was probable some third 
person whose judgment was in temporary favor had criticized the tile 
and that actually Ford had no strong fee-ling about it. Liebold decided 
not to tear it down and to await developments. The guess was good. 

"Mr. Ford says to never mind that tile at the hospital/' the Fair 
Lane chauffeur telephoned next morning. "He says he will tend 

to it: 5 

He took care of it by doing nothing. The tiling is still in its 
original place. It never became a cause celebre aesthetically. The chances 
are he never gave it another thought. 

Ford had a softness easily stirred a temper easily lit. Both could 
be set off by the smallest of events. Bark scraped of! his favorite bitter 
sweet along the four-block iron fence of the hospital angered him. Five 
hundred men in line at the employment gate of the plant in a depres 
sion year resulted in an order to hire them, along with a thousand others 
the 500 telephoned as soon as they got the good news, A heavy storm 
backed water into his Highland Park basement and he soured on all 
basements threatened never to visit Henry Ford Hospital if it had 



340 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

one. He finally agreed that underground space for service passage 
ways, piping and other facilities might be necessary. 

He put on doublet and plume once and played the gallant in 
pretty fashion. The 1 4-year-old daughter of an executive became unac 
countably ill and lost fifty pounds. Weeks passed before the cause a 
fall that resulted in a glandular upset was discovered. 

Unpasteurized milk was prescribed. He iced and delivered it 
each morning from his own herd. Tomato juice was recommended. 
Cases arrived from Ford. He was on the phone solicitously. One Friday 
morning he appeared at her home on his bicycle. Was she strong enough 
to attend an old fashioned dancing party he was giving the same 
evening? She didn't think so. Her parents would come for a while but 
would leave early since they did not wish her to be alone. 

"I tell you what/' the motormaker urged. "You come for a little 
while and sit with me. Perhaps we can have one dance if you feel up 
to it." He said he was sure she would be better for seeing people and 
listening to music. 

The patient brightened perceptibly at the idea and her parents 
consented. The importunate caller left. A service man rang the door 
bell an hour later. In his hand was a single yellow rose "for the little 
miss to wear tonight." The squire of Fair Lane had gone straight to 
his gardens for a flower to give a discouraged young lady a little extra 
buoyancy. 

Mild panic spread, however, when Ford complained even lightly. 
A fretful word became ominous as it passed down the line. Attractive 
rock gardens ornament one countryside because his car bumped "into 
a boulder. 

Roadways leading to some of his mills and village factories were 
faced with stone. It was not his idea. Field stone abounded and some 
of his managers thought it would protect the lawns. The trim served 
until he backed his car into an enormous rock and jumped out to look 
for damage and cause. 

"Is it necessary to have these stones set out here?" he asked 
ironically. 

"We thought they would keep cars off the grass, Mr. Ford." 

He said to get them out of there. He may not have intended his 
order to be accepted as sweepingly as it was, but the underground 
worked fast in such cases. In no time those managing his properties 



MERCURIAL MAGNATE 341 

within a radius of some 40 miles were apprised by cronies that the 
motormaker was against drives lined with stones and if yours is, Charlie, 
you had better get them the hell out of there before he sees them. 
Within forty-eight hours they were cleared. A lot of fellows had the 
rock carted home, not sure what to do with it but hurrying to get it out 
of sight, and made pretty use of it in their gardens. 

He pursued a sentimental course in buying farms and farm 
houses that was said to haunt his heirs when the company began to 
divest itself of some non-profitable experiments soybean enterprises, 
rural hydro plants, at one place almost an entire village. 

Some farmers who sold their houses and lands to him might 
object to outright sale. A man might say, "Yes, I'd like to sell, Mr. 
Ford, but this is my home my parents' home. It's more than wood and 
stone, you see? I don't want to part with it. Maybe we can work out 
some kind of a deal whereby " 

"Sure thing," Ford would agree; "I know just how you feel." 
He could understand a man's soft spot for his ancestral home. Had 
it not been a labor of love to restore his own? 

So he would ask how some sort of arrangement like this would 
do : The farmer could live in the house until he found another place 
or even continue out his days there. Then the place would pass to Ford. 

Sometimes a clause to this effect was written into the terms of 
sale. Often it was just an oral agreement. Ford would say it was all 
right with him. The farmer said Ford could have the place under those 
conditions. There seemed quite a few of these gentlemen's agreements 
when the company got ready to put some of the properties on the 
market. 

He never followed routine or did the same thing twice. If he was 
out of his office his secretary seldom knew where he was no matter how 
much he was suspected of knowing. Ford did not want visitors or his 
secretariat on his heels. Sometimes he would come in and go out a back 
way maybe just step out a window. When he was bored by a caller, 
his secretary knew the symptoms. He would begin to pick imaginary 
lint off his clothes, stare bleakly out a window, straighten out non 
existent wrinkles, slouch deep in his chair. He never seemed in full 
command at these trying moments and could not bring himself to say 
that he now regarded his visitor as an unmitigated donkey and would 
he please get out. 



342 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

The secretary would enter the breach and say there was a long 
distance call waiting. Ford would look with an air of apology at his 
guest over the interruption. He would rise and say he was sorry about 
the diversion. 

"But you stay here; I'll be right back," he might say before dash 
ing out. 

He would keep right on dashing, and there always was the pos 
sibility that a credulous visitor would die of famine if he waited in the 
fatuous belief that Ford meant what he said and ultimately would come 
back after he answered a purely fictional telephone call. 

A family crest or a massive record of achievement was no better 
guarantee than a social security card that Ford would keep an appoint 
ment. Your importance or the fact that you had gone through the pre 
scribed channels and had been assured that at a set hour on a set day 
Henry Ford would see you was no irrevocable insurance policy that 
it would turn out that way. He allowed few appointments to interfere 
with his exercise of free will. 

I remember three writers who came by appointment and he had 
exchanged only a few words with them when he left the room. He did 
not reappear for an hour, and when he returned he wore a turtleneck 
sweater, stocking cap on his head and over his arm a pair of skates. 
He had been out for a few turns on the frozen pond. It apparently 
had flashed on him at the beginning of the interview that what he 
really wanted was a little skate instead of strangers breezing questions 
at him. 

On days when visitors were scheduled he was followed and his 
exact whereabouts telephoned at intervals to the nervous executive 
whose job was to establish liaison. Guards at the gates flashed word if 
he left the grounds. 

The system saved headaches and enabled many a caller to con 
verse with Ford who otherwise might have been sitting on his deflated 
rump in the Dearborn lobby for days. His forgetfulness was not hard 
to explain in view of his broad interests but it was surprising in one 
who in some ways was a stickler for punctilio. 

A letter from the State Department in 1930 said that Prince Louis 
II, sovereign head of the House of Monaco and in the United States 
incognito, had expressed a desire to visit the Ford plant ^and chat with 
its owner. 



MERCURIAL MAGNATE 343 

"Yeah, I'll be here," he said when told. "Tell him to come along." 

A response was sent in the more urbane language of diplomacy. 
Mr. Ford was charmed. Mr. Ford was looking forward with great 
interest to the coming of his excellency. Men dogging the motormaker 
reported him in the experimental machine shop when the Prince arrived, 
and two of us walked out to tell him the guest was waiting. 

"The Prince of Monaco is here, Mr. Ford," the company execu 
tive said. 

"Heh? Oh, yes." He lifted his eyes from a cam on a machine. He 
looked slightly misty. "Where in hell is Monaco?" he asked. He was 
told. 

I chipped in, encyclopediacally, that in the year 1863 when Ford 
was born, the Prince's grandfather had sold to Francois Blanc the con 
cession to run the Monte Carlo gambling casino in Monaco for a period 
of fifty years. Ford evinced no interest in the historical tip and turned 
back to the cam. 

"Well," he flung over his shoulder, "bring him out here." 

The executive told His Highness he was to have the privilege of 
meeting Ford as he was working at the machinery he loved. The Prince, 
in kind, said he was enchanted by the prospect. Ford fell swiftly into 
the vernacular of the shop and they conversed until the host noticed that 
while the Prince was nodding agreeably at what was being said, 
he had heard a limpid overtone above the shop sounds around him and 
was looking for its source. 

"That's an orchestra I have to play for old-fashioned American 
dances," Ford explained. 

"One instrument is a dulcimer, isn't it?" The Prince seemed 
quite interested. 

"Yes, it is." Ford wiped his fingers on some waste and took his 
visitor by the arm warmly as if mutual knowledge of a dulcimer estab 
lished a closer bond. 

We strolled down the laboratory to the dance floor. 

"This gentleman is the Prince of Monaco," Ford announced. 

The orchestra rose and bowed. The Prince inclined. 

"Play his national anthem," suggested the host. 

The musicians looked blank. They knew by heart Grandpa's 
Favorite, the Seaside Polka and a good rye waltz, but they were short 
of anthems, especially Monaco's. 



344 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

It was a difficult situation almost an incident. 
"I would like to hear the Marseillaise" The Prince saved it. 
The orchestra obliged and a strain on international good will was 
relieved. 

Ford was adept in saving a situation himself upon a visit of 
Queen Marie of Rumania when one of his own staff was accidentally 
overlooked in the introductions by her American consul. 
"Queen," said Mr. Ford, "meet our Mr. Black." 
He would not be pinned down at home or abroad by unattractive 
diversion, and his extrications were no different than those of other 
men. He ducked a house-party in the war to spend an afternoon with 
two young, obscure New Zealand mechanics, down from a Canadian 
training field on a two-day pass, whom a newsman guided to his gate. 
He said in parting, "If you write your folks you had a good time 
with Henry Ford, tell them he said he had a great time, too." 

An Associated Press man who went to Ford's Huron Mountain 
Lodge found himself implicated in one of the efforts to wriggle out of 
an engagement distasteful to his host. 

The bureau man spent a couple of interesting days and decided 
to return before the head office accused him of making a holiday of 
his work. 

"You couldn't go back tomorrow instead of today?" asked the 
world's wealthiest citizen, anxiously. "Wish you could?" 

In a sheepish burst of confidence he said that there were a lot 
of women coming to the lodge that afternoon but he had pleaded to 
Mrs. Ford he could not possibly be around to meet them because he had 
an important appointment with his newspaper friend. The newsman 
stayed over a day. 

But when Ford wanted something very much for his wife he 
was hard to put off. They visited an English castle which had become 
a national monument and were delighted by some of its furnishings. 
Mrs. Ford was especially enamored of a piece of porcelain. 

"This, Henry," she said, lingering over it and picturing it in her 
own home, "I would like to own." 

Ford was undaunted by the fact the porcelain was part of the 
national treasure. It was enough that Gallic wanted it and that her 
birthday was only a few weeks off. Very well, he would not say any 
thing to her but he'd get it. He hunted up Sir Percival Perry, his 



MERCURIAL MAGNATE 345 

English representative, and told o Mrs. Ford's desire. He said he 
wanted her to have it. 

"You buy it for me/' he said coolly. He would have asked for the 
Kohinoor in the Tower of London with the same casualness. 

The blanching Perry was thoroughly indoctrinated in what could 
and couldn't be done in the kingdom, or considered that he was. 

"Mr. Ford/' he said, hesitatingly, "there really are things which 
are considered sacred in England and cannot be bought." He said this 
was particularly true of museum pieces. 

Ford dismissed it as probably propaganda kept alive by Crown 
or Commons. Had not his son found a few grandees not ashamed to 
turn an honest pound? Edsel obtained a lovely staircase from Lyveden 
Hall in Northamptonshire, a pine panel from Spitalfields, and for his 
dining room some eighteenth century paneling from the Clock House 
in Upminster. The senior Ford guessed he could have a little bowl for 
his wife. JHe often said himself he would sell anything he owned but 
Mrs. Ford and the plant. 

"I know few things money won't buy," he said. "You will find 
you can get that porcelain." 

Sir Percival winced. His face was redder several days later. He 
discovered he was able to buy the porcelain and reported the fact with 
some chagrin. It was not true that some of this treasure could not be 
bought or the British government made an exception in Ford's case 
in return for his gifts to the empire's economy. Mrs. Ford had a happy 
birthday Fair Lane a new and desirable decoration. 

The only adjective continuously true of him was "unpredictable,'* 
although he also said consistency was a hobgoblin of little minds, even 
if his respected Ralph Waldo Emerson said it first. 

The late Albert Kahn, distinguished American architect, asked 
if I would come to see him in the Twenties. One of his major clients 
was Henry Ford and *-he relationship was of long and cordial standing. 
Kahn gave credit to Ford for a great number of major improvements 
in industrial building design. The conception of an entire plant under 
one roof with no open courts or division walls was his. Ford also was 
first to use steel sash. 

The architect told me that he had met that morning with Soviet 
engineers and Arntorg representatives and signed a contract to make 
plans and supervise construction of a series of manufacturing buildings 



346 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

on the American model at the mouth of the Volga. The initial contract 
was for a $4,000,000 tractor plant. The total work probably would run 
into several hundred millions. In all Kahn and his staff were to build 
more than 500 buildings for the Soviet 

I knew Kahn well and asked what he thought Ford would say. 
His eyes twinkled. 

"You tell me," he said. He promised to let me know what hap 
pened. 

Ford telephoned next morning when the story was published 
and asked if the architect could come to Dearborn. I thought it wise to 
be on hand also for any possible repercussions. The United States had 
not recognized Russia. Moneyed people in the country were in the main 
unfriendly if not hostile. Ford might take the same line. 

"Glad to hear of your new business, Albert," he said. "We'll 
give you every help we can." 

He bustled about his car loading bags for a motor trip. 

"You tell those fellows," he said, "they can have our patterns, 
models, anything they want and well send some fellows to Russia to 
show them how to make cars." He said he'd take 500 Russian engineers 
into his own plant, if the Soviet wished, and let them see close up 
how the place was run. 

Ford had pushed the apple-cart over on one wheel again. He said 
prosperity for any country meant more prosperity for all. Kahn went 
to Russia and although born there, thought the Russians slightly nuts. 
They demanded extra heavy foundations and extra steel in the con 
struction because they said it got awfully cold there. He said the lighter 
construction would not be affected no matter how cold it was but they 
had their way. Even then they were thinking in terms of war. 

Kahn need not have worried, if he did, over what Ford might do. 
Several years before, Ford representatives in Denmark had contracted 
with Russia for delivery of 18,000 cars a year, and the same year Ford 
announced shipment of 900 tractors to the Soviet, plus extension rims, 
fenders and pulley attachments. As a compliment to him and for his 
criticism the USSR shipped him one of the first it made when its own 
tractor plant got going. 

Yet when Samuel Crowther wrote a life of Ford in collaboration 
with him, the Soviet made sixty omissions and changes in their edi 
tion. It would not permit Ford to say for Russian consumption, "There 



MERCURIAL MAGNATE 347 

aie entirely too many attempts at reforming the world. Reformers and 
reform are nuisances. The man who calls himself a reformer wants to 
smash things. He would tear up a whole shirt because the button-hole 
did not fit, instead of enlarging the button-hole." 

Blue-pencilled, also, was the paragraph: 

"Russia is at work but it counts for nothing. It is not free work. 
in the U. S. a workman works eight hours a day in Russia 12 to 14 
hours. In America he lays off if he wants to in Russia he goes to work 
whether he wants to or not." 



Three easy lessons in how to 
deal with people who think 
every man has his price and 
who may he coming up your 
walk now with some such 
fancy offer. 



CHAPTER XXII 
BILLIONS 



HAD A HIGH WIND blown away his last penny one never 
could imagine Henry Ford stepping to a window and jump 
ing out, unable or unwilling to face a life capitalized at less 
than a billion dollars. It was easier to conceive of his packing 
bis lunch box and reporting to another powerhouse to make a fresh 
beginning, perhaps pinning a badge on his shirt as he required .other 
inen to do for him. From nothing to a billion and back well, maybe 
he could make the summit a second time. 

He spoke of money disrespectfully, if at all, in imposing contrast 
to those who develop vertigo or whose palms grow wet at mention of 
profit. It could have been the surfeit of a man working on his fortieth 
clam or wheatcake. It might have been a pose and a prerogative of the 
very opulent, but the indifference was Ford's even in the early days 
when the landlord was not sure when he called for the rent $16 a 
month for the mechanic's half of the double house whether it would 
be waiting or he'd be put off for a couple of days. The indifference was 
equally strong in him when he refused three cash offers of a billion 
each in successive years for the company. 

Seven words turned down the first billion, "I'd have the money 
but no job." His son, Edsel, waving off two similar offers, took a cue in 
brevity from the father and said, "What could we do with the money ?" 
The answers are well to note. It is possible that no one ever again will 
have occasion to reject a billion. 

348 



BILLIONS 349 

Long before he became stuffy with money he had $150,000 in one 
bank and smaller amounts in others. He walked up to a paying teller 
with a check for all he had in his principal account. It was paid him 
and he stood about and held the bills in his hand for a moment in some 
surprise, as if he had half expected to catch the bank of guard and 
unable to respond to such a demand. He even thought the place might 
suspend and bolt the front door but people kept going and coming just 
the same. 

He sat down and counted and recounted the money slowly. The 
total always came to $150,000, all right. He had not wanted to deposit 
the money in the first place. Always thought it would be better to have 
the cash in some kind of a safe place at the plant where he could go in 
and look at it and feel it every five minutes, if he wanted to, and be 
certain no banker was up to any hanky-panky with it. Never trusted the 
general run of bankers too much. 

He stepped back to another teller four windows from the one 
who had paid him and pushed the money through the grating. 

"I want to deposit this," he said. "Yes, Mr. Ford, good morning." 
The teller was unaware that ten minutes before the customer had drawn 
out the same money he was now turning in. 

Ford only wanted to know the $150,000 was there. Ten minutes 
did not convert him to the side of bankers but it proved at least that 
his funds were still shipshape. Yet it was not the money itself that 
worried him. If the bank had not been able to pay off he would not have 
raged over the loss but at being outfoxed and yielding his judgment 
to that of those who got him to put money into the bank in the first 
place, 

He bristled in later years when someone tried to pin him down on 
the exact extent of his fortune, as he was nettled when asked what 
would happen to the company when he was gone. To the first I remem 
ber his growling, "Damn it to all hell! I don't know or care!" To the 
second he responded brusquely but with less temper, "If we keep the 
place up someone will be able to use it" 

His billion gave him power and he never was contemptuous of 
that. It enabled him to play the grand monarch. With it he could try 
the thing never done and even that which never would be. He could 
be a Samaritan. He could win or lose with no emotion except as his 
pride might be bruised by failure. 



350 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

For years Ford Motor topped Wall Street's shopping list. Rejec 
tion of staggering offers got commonplace for the man who tramped 
the streets with his wife the night before Christmas of 1895 and found 
no one willing to trust them for a chicken for their holiday dinner. 

William C. Durant, promotional fireball and one-time president 
of General Motors, had a vision, in 1908, To begin with, he would con 
solidate four automobile companies. They would be the rock on which 
he'd build. 

"Very well," said Ford, a little tempted, "our price is $3,000,000." 

But if Ford got that much, Ransom E. Olds wanted the same for 
his company and the Durant plan collapsed. 

The determined promoter did not give up. He acquired Oakland, 
Cadillac and Olds and was back in a year fishing for Ford again. The 
telephone rang in a New York hotel room. Ford had lumbago. He had 
had no luck in finding a restful position on the bed and was testing the 
floor for comfort. Couzens, his general manager, answered the call. 
Durant was in the lobby and wanted to come up. Ford didn't want to 
see him. He did not want to talk to anyone until his backache left him. 

"I'll come down," Couzens compromised. "Henry's not feeling 
good." 

He was back in an hour. Durant wanted Ford Motor for 
$8,000,000 this time. 

"Tell him he can have it if the money's all cash," Ford shouted 
from a shaving operation in another room. "Tell him I'll throw in my 
lumbago." 

"He's gone. He's coming back tomorrow for an answer," Couzens 
walked over to the bathroom door. "You want to let it go for that?" 

"What do you think?" 

Td say 'yes.'" 

"If we get cash," Ford reminded. 

"Cash or the answer is 'no/ " 

It seemed a gold strike for both. Five years before they had 
been nervously debating whether $3,000 a year salary for Ford and $2,500 
for Couzens would be too much to ask of the stockholders. Couzens, 
the ex-car checker, would come close to clearing a million on the 
Durant deal and he had started on $900 of his own, $100 borrowed 
from his sister and a note for $1500. 

Ford would get between four and five millions. He'd be far better 



BILLIONS 351 

off than most inventors. Durant would inherit the headaches of the 
Selden patent suit brought against Ford for alleged infringement in 
engine design. Ford could wash his hands of worry and be the country 
squire. Couzens told Durant what Ford had said and the promoter flew 
to his bankers. 

Ford Motor wasn't worth it, they decided and recorded an all- 
time peak for short-sightedness. But if Ford would take some cash and 
the rest in stock ? Ford would do nothing of the kind. It forced him into 
the world's most successful parlay. It was the last time he was in a mood 
to dicker. He got over his lumbago, won the Selden suit, the Model T 
caught on, and in 1914 the company had net sales over $200,000,000 
and a surplus of $110,000,000. 

He rejected one unique bid that year. Employees made it. Must 
have been radicals, everybody said, because only a few months before 
he had instituted his $5 minimum wage. They asked him to loan them 
the plant for a month so they could make cars for themselves and 
families. They set a reasonable maximum one car to a family and 
they said as well, "We agree to pay for all raw materials, maintain all 
existing departments and return the plant in even better condition than 
it is now." 

Ford did not loan the plant. Model T's sold as fast as they popped 
off the assembly line. He even rebated part of the purchase price to 
buyers when sales topped a prescribed figure. 

It was hardly the moment for the senior partner of a New York 
brokerage house, acting for unidentified principals, to visit Dearborn. 
The House of Morgan was the rumored backstage dickerer. 

John W. Prentiss, of Hornblower & Weeks, was in the office of 
C. Harold Wills, one of Ford's top command, when Ford himself bobbed 
in. He got around, after a few amenities, to asking Prentiss what busi 
ness he was in and what brought him to Dearborn. The visitor said he 
dealt in stocks and bonds. 

"One of those Wall Street fellows, eh?" Ford put up a hand with 
palm toward Prentiss as though to ward him off. He had fixed notions 
about stock market rascalities. 

The broker said if Ford would recapitalize the motor company 
for $500,000,000 his house was prepared to take all or any of the stock 
issue. Ford asked why he should do anything of the sort and Prentiss 
argued there were advantages to a free and open market. 



352 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"And some moderate distribution of stock," he added, "will not 
endanger your control in the slightest." 

"Not for me," Ford said. He moved toward the door. "I guess 
we'll go along as we are, Mr. Prentiss." 

Another offer of $200,000,000 for a quarter interest was made 
through Stuart W. Webb, New York manufacturer representing other 
interests in 1923, but Edsel Ford, with whom he lunched, "did not think 
much of the idea." 

Webb was back a year later for another lunch and with a second 
proposal this one designed to break down the defenses of any person 
in his right mind. "How would you like it if I should take a billion in 
cash and swap it for stock of the Ford Motor Company?" Now it was 
a billion for what three million could have had 16 years before. Ford 
still was not impressed. 

"What," asked Edsel, "would we do with all the money?" 

"But you have it now, Mr. Ford, except in a different form." 

"We couldn't do it; we're having too much fun as it is." The 

Ford dropped the subject. 

Once a hardware dealer put a $15 credit limit on Henry Ford's 
'purchases. Now he could say a curt "no" to a billion. The last laugh 
seemed to be his. Judge had once quipped, "A fool and his flivver are 
soon carteji," and the Life of Charles Dana Gibson, not Luce, had jibed, 
"The five-day week is in force at Ford's because it takes the sixth day 
to get the darned things started." Pretty comical, but the magazines, 
not Ford, folded. 

The offer was renewed in 1926, and in 1927 the grapevine had it 
that now the Fords positively were thinking of recapitalization and a 
Detroit representative of a Manhattan banking group was instructed 
to see how much truth there was to the report. Model T had been aban 
doned. The accouchement of the new car seemed prolonged. Maybe in 
a disheartened mood Ford had softened and would tep down. 

There was nothing to it. The senior Ford had said that if he sold 
he'd have the money but nothing to work at. Besides he didn't have lum 
bago any more. He hardly needed money. A study of the wealth of 
jthe world's twenty richgst men by Stuart Chase for the New York 
'imes in 1927 lumped the fortunes of Henry Ford and son at $1,200,- 
1,000 and John D. Rockefeller and son at $600,000,000. The Fords, 
Said the Times, were the richest men on earth. 



BILUONS 353 

Others listed and only four are alive today were Richard B. 
Mellon, banking; Edward S. and Ann Harkness, oil; Sir Basil Zaharoff, 
munitions; the Gaekwar of Baroda, whose Indian courtyard guns were 
said to be gold and who possessed a single tapestry valued at a million; 
Payne Whitney, real estate; Thomas B. Walker, Minnesota lumberman; 
Duke of Westminster, owning about a third of the 2,300 acres between 
London's Fleet Street and Kensington, Oxford Street and the Thames; 
Baron H. Mitsui, Japan, shipping; Simon I. Patino, Bolivia, tin; and 
Alfred Loewenstein, Belgium, mines, steel and shipping, the latter dead 
in the English Channel in a mysterious fall from his plane a year 
later. 

Experts sparred over the claim that the Fords were wealthiest of 
all. The past was explored for parallels. 

What sort of man, it was asked, was this Pythias who gave 
$25,000,000 to Xerxes I as a token of esteem ? 

Had not some Lydian Croesus spent $200,000,000, at today's rates, 
on a propitiatory pyramid of golden brick to the Delphic Oracle and 
capped it with a solid gold lion? 

Did not Solomon have an income of $20,000,000 a year and no 
taxes to shrink it? 

Cheops had pulled 100,000 men and women from the fields and 
used them in three-month shifts on the Great Pyramid for twenty years. 

Rameses III was Exhibit A. He had $500,000,000, the space-writers 
said, or relatively $10,000,000,000 in buying power, if one took into 
account the cost of living and materials today and 3,000 years ago when 
a fat ox brought only a dollar, wheat was 12 cents a bushel and 12 to 20 
cents was a day's wage. 

The researchers dug up lesser prototypes the Medicis and Fug- 
gers, Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba, Herodotus and Plutarch and 
thought that some of these might not have been so very far behind the 
Fords. 

Ford understood quite well that he was rich and that there had 
been rich men before him, but was disinterested in all the speculation 
about his money and theirs. Once walking along the River Rouge with 
him I got out a newspaper clipping in which his probable financial 
standing was set down against that of early ancients. 

"Know what would make a better article?" he asked when I had 
read a few of the more pertinent paragraphs. 



354 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

I asked what would improve the newspaper story. 

"A comparison of the life of an automobile worker at $7 a day and 
a fellow on the Pyramids at 10 cents," he said. He had another thought. 
"I wonder," he chuckled, "if Cheops could stand up to me in a 50-yard 
dash?" Was Rameses good at pitching hay? Could those ancients read 
blueprints? Ford looked off to the orchard. "I'd like to have Solomon 
here now and see if he could chin himself on one of those trees." He 
thought he could beat Solomon's pants off at the exercise. 

"Could Cleopatra polka?" I tried to play up to his mood. 

He looked interested. "Do you suppose she could?" 

"How would I know?" 

"Yes, that's right; how would you? Well, she probably couldn't 
hold a candle to Mrs. Ford." We moved up the bank and over to a field 
where a half dozen reapers were starting on the wheat. The tops shone 
golden and Ford's eyes traveled satisfledly down them. 

"You'd never think food would ever look so slick, would you?" 
he said, pressing against the fence. The lady of the asp and her probable 
clumsiness at the polka had been instantly wiped out of mind at sight of 
the ripened grain. 

The public turned from guessing how much money Ford had to 
describing some of the things he could do with it if he took it into his 
head. The old New York Evening World printed an unguaranteed list 
of possibilities in the Twenties: 

He could buy absolute control of General Motors and U. S. Steel, 
and have enough left to buy New York Central. 

He could buy the gold reserve of the twelve federal banks against 
their outstanding bank notes and still have a balance of $350,000,000. 

He could acquire the wheat, oats, potato and tobacco crops of 
the United States in 1925. 

He could pay for the total imports of Canada in 1926. 

Three per cent on his capital, if he was able to get such a return, 
would give him an annual income of $36,000,000. 

But Henry Ford's principal purchase was almost complete inde 
pendence to do as he liked, and there are many proofs of his disaffection 
for pomp and custom and riches and games of men who amassed for 
tunes before him. There was so much proof of his disdain for ceremony 
that critics came in time to ask if the amplitude of evidence was not in 
itself a sign of ostentation and if the role of shrinking homespun citizen 



BILLIONS 355 

was not a carefully planned way to mellow a public to an indubitable 
autocrat. 

On a war visit of the Duke of Windsor and Lord Halifax an 
office boy upset a tray of mail a few yards from where the guests were 
talking. Ford got to his knees and helped pick the letters up. The Duke 
and the ambassador waited without hint that this might breach the 
usual protocol. Edward even recaptured a couple of letters which fell 
his way. The mail back in the receptacle, the host got to his feet and 
without comment resumed the conversation where he had left off. 

President Harding once let him out a basement door of the White 
House so he might escape interviewers. When he was asked to dinner 
by the Franklin Roosevelts to meet England's king and queen^ln 1939, 
he said he could not make it Mrs. Ford was having a meeting of her 
garden club at the house that day! 

In England he bought a Rolls to tour but the elegance drew 
attention to him and his wife, and Mrs. Ford authored what may or 
may not have been her only Ford joke. 

"Next time we come well travel in a Ford car and no one will 
notice us," she told him when the tenth levee of villagers had dissolved. 

A child was killed by one of his trucks on a town-line road feed 
ing into an expressway from Detroit to the Willow Run bomber plant, 
during World War II. The death shocked him. He telephoned the 
county road engineers. Where the accident occurred, the highway 
jogged and the child had not seen the oncoming car until too late. 

Couldn't the road be straightened so that children attending the 
new school he had built could have a clear view of traffic? Several crooks 
in it would have to go. The commission would look at it right away. 

"I'm a little tired," Ford announced to his own deputy and the 
highway engineer when they joined up at the scene. He was in his late 
seventies. "I'll wait here while you see what can be done." He threw 
himself on the grass and the others went up and down the road to 
estimate the necessary changes. 

Upon their return they found Ford had taken off his coat and 
shoes and was on his back between two trees, his stockinged feet 
pressed against the trunk of one about a couple of feet up from the base 
and his head cushioned against the second. 

"This/* he remarked, "is an awfully comfortable position. Why 
don't you fellows try it for a few minutes?" 



356 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

The two companions found birches in similar juxtaposition, took 
off their coats and shoes and obligingly copied Ford's relaxed position. 
Yes, it was a good way to stretch out, they conceded. "Well, what can 
be done about the road?" asked Ford from the comfort of his leafy 
couch. 

The recumbent conference seemed to set a new mark in informal 
ity. It was decided right there in "the awfully comfortable position" that 
it would be easy to uncurl the road and reduce future trouble. The con 
ferees, that settled, put their respective dignities and shoes back on and 
adjourned sine die. 



Paris, Aug. 26, (1933) Sixteen men alive today could 
lump their fortunes and pay the debts of the world. In a 
special number of Paris Vu f Richard Lewinsohn presents 
the list as follows, ranking them in order of wealth: 

Edsel Ford, Henry Ford, Baron Edward G. Roths 
child, Duke of Westminster, former Kaiser Wilhelm of 
Germany, Gaekwar of Baroda, Basil Zaharoff, Simon I. 
Patino, Ruppert Guinness, Ireland, second Earl of Iveagh 
and manufacturer of Guinness Stout; Aga Khan III, 
Georges de Wendell, Flench industrialist; John D. Rocke 
feller Senior and Junior, Louis Louis-Dreyfus, French in 
dustrialist; Andrew Mellon, and Fritz Thyssen, Germany. 



Ford played the billionaire in line with expectation at times and 
seemed to be fouling up the part at others, but the uneven performance 
should have surprised no one. No standard script existed. Being the 
first supposedly to amass such money, he had to write his lines as he 
went along. There were no precedents, no listed cues and stage business 
by which he could govern his actions and feel he was enacting Dives 
in historic tradition. 

If it had been Hamlet, he would have had Gielgud and Maurice 
Evans to consult, Sothern and Barrymore and Forbes-Robertson to 
study. If it had been a matter at court, any law library would have told 
him how a judge had once ruled in such a case as his, but being 
Billionaire No. i there was nothing to do but go it alone, playing some 
scenes in the grand manner and muffing his lines in others. 



BILLIONS 357 

All he had to go by was a record of poorer contemporaries, unat 
tractive to him. The Vanderbilts had sailed a hundred yachts. An Astor 
wore a dog collar of pearls with diamond pendant attachment, a stom 
acher of diamonds, a massive tiara and the royal purple of a French 
queen to her annual ball. Henry Frick, steel tycoon, favored Titians. 
Madame Rejane had acted at Sherry's amid 3,000 white roses for a multi 
millionaire's well chosen guests. 

So-and-so took unto himself a beloved wife, his sixth; William 
K. Vanderbilt's silks were up at Longchamps; Mrs. Horace Dodge 
Wilson, widow of Ford's old-time partner, gave her daughter an 
$800,000 necklace in which Catherine of Russia had once dressed up. 
None of the divertissements tempted Ford. None of these people seemed 
to be going his way. 

The golden age at Newport ended with a dinner on horseback. 
The favorite steed fed upon flowers, and champagne and cigarettes were 
wrapped in $100 bills. Ford preferred the lunch the wife of his 
friend, Tom Edison, packed and which he ate coming home in the car 
through the Delaware Water Gap. 

J. Pierpont Morgan passed the plate at St. George's; young Rocke 
feller taught a Bible Class at the Fifth Avenue Baptist, but Ford had no 
wish to do either. It is doubtful if he understood the broader relaxations 
of Morgan. He was more partial to the junior Rockefeller saying to a 
classmate at Brown, "Old man, don't you think you're smoking too 
much?" or to a member of the Bible Class, "Self-help is the only 
thing in the world." 

Astronomical fun, Ford style, was to buy an old and shabby grist 
mill some fossil eligible as a set for an O'Neill play. A quick operation 
would be performed. He would tidy it until not a speck or leaky vent 
was left. He would build a power-house just as immaculate. A pond 
would be dredged or created and a fine new dam put in to contain its 
water. Last would be the omnipresent water-wheel. 

In one hamlet the work on such a plaything had been apparently 
completed when he thought of the good miller and of the fact there waj 
no accommodation for him. Now where would he live ? 

"How about that house over there?" A villager pointed to a frame 
place on a nearby hillside. 

Ford looked askance. It was a dwelling of recent vintage and his 
mill was of another century. 



358 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"It won't do," he said, determinedly. 

He spent the next day roaming the roundabout country and at 
sundown had the answer. Only two miles away he had come upon a 
house of the right period, so within the week it was on skids, and tractors 
dragged it across the fields, sections of fence being set aside to give it 
a clear right of way. 

It was placed by the site of the mill, and there the miller should 
have lived happily ever after, as many millers did in such Ford-created 
harmony, for a maintenance crew went to work upon it and gave it 
white paint and green shutters and a picket fence and fine inner habili 
ments. Ford wanted no mill on canvas, no matter if Raphael did it no 
painted cow in a painted meadow, when he could look out an upstairs 
window, as he said, and see a live one. 

But the Japs dived on the Pacific Fleet and Hickam Field and 
Ford turned from consideration of millers in correct surroundings to 
airplane engines, and the miller's trim house went tenantless and, even 
tually, on the block when the war ended. 



Commerce and Finance, American magazine, named in 
1934 the following as the ten richest men in the world: 
Edsel Ford, Baron Rothschild, Duke of Westminster, ex- 
Kaiser Wilhelm, Gaekwar of Baroda, Zaharoff, Patino, 
Lord Guinness, Aga Khan III and his Exalted Highness, 
6o-year-old Sir Mis Osman Ali Khan, principal Moslem 
ruler of India. 



Because he forgot to open mail, his first secretary was hired. A 
secretary could only slit the envelopes and could not insist on his boss 
reading what was in them. Ford continued to cram mail into his pockets. 
The secretary was a step forward, but a crumpled $85,000 check tumbled 
out of Ford's work suit one day when he was looking for a piece of blue 
crayon, and the story is that a valet came upon another tattered slip 
for $125,000 in a suit being sent to the cleaners. Neither time was Ford 
more than mildly interested. 

"What's it matter whether it's in my pocket or a bank?" he was 
supposed to have said. "It's still our money, isn't it?" Nothing but silly 
book-keeping, he thought. 



BILLIONS w 

An incident in the early relationship of Ford and his chief en 
gineer, William B. Mayo, seemed to bear on this reputed unconcern 
over money. Mayo, who was to enjoy unique freedom under Ford, 
worked in those days for an Ohio firm. When an assistant failed to get 
a bite on a visit to Highland Park, the engineer stuffed his bag and made 
for the battlements himself to sell the motormaker a power-house 
installation for which Ford was reported in the market. 

He and Ford got along splendidly and they were so companion 
able that days elapsed before Mayo managed to squeeze in a word 
abotrt the purpose of his visit. Mayo was in love with the magnificent 
experiments Ford was making; Ford was delighted to find someone 
who clearly spoke his language. But as for the power-house "Forget 
it; I don't want to talk about it right now," said Ford. He said to come 
back next week. 

This went on for six months. Then without preface Ford said 
Mayo could go ahead with the power plant. 

'Will you have the contract written up?" the engineer sug 
gested. 

Ford said for him to write one. Mayo did. Ford said it was too 
long. The engineer boiled it. Ford said there was still too much word- 
age. "We don't need all that between us, do we?" he protested. Mayo 
got the third draft down to acceptable shortness. Ford signed without 
reading it. 

Mayo protested, "Don't you want to see what it's going to cost 
you?" 

"Would you sign it if you were me?" asked Ford. 

The engineer thought he would if the same proposition was put 
up to him. 

"That's good enough," Ford said. He didn't ask the cost. 

When Mayo went to work for Ford, he was told to draw up a 
contract that suited him. It was a unique agreement in one respect and 
gave Mayo greater independence than any other man in Ford service. 
He was an exception to the general rule among Ford executives : he was 
a made man when he joined the organization; the company did not 
make him. He reserved the right in his contract to continue as a director 
of several companies with which he was then connected. Ford signed 
the agreement again without reading it and Mayo got the same answer 
as before when he inquired if Ford did not want to know the terms. 



360 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

"Would you sign if you were in my shoes?" the motormaker 
asked. 

Mayo said he thought the contract a good one both ways. 

Ford finished the signing and put down the pen. "Now you're 
working for us," he said. 

He horrified the banking district by saying that saving was an 
overpraised virtue just at a time when some institution was offering 
college scholarships for essays on thrift. 

"No successful boy saves money money is just a tool bank 
accounts give boys a wrong idea of how to get ahead buy an old 
engine, take it apart, learn how the wheels mesh and work buy a 
book, read a writer's conception of things and put your own thinking 
on top of his . * ." 

The son of Ford's tire-making camping crony, the late Harvey S. 
Firestone, boasted as a boy to Mr. Ford of a small sum he had saved. 

"That's hind end to." Ford sat down and told the heir to the 
rubber millions how the thing to do was just the opposite of what he 
was doing. "Spend it for tools and make something create something." 
Boys and girls who learned to spend money would be the ones to make 
a better world. He used Thomas Edison as Exhibit A. The inventor, 
he said, never had any money until he got so much he could not spend 
it all. 

Of course Mr. Ford confused one a little by this accent on spend 
ing and de-emphasis on saving. When he put in his $5 wage minimum, 
an employee had to save regularly to draw full benefits under the plan, 
and in 1920 he instituted a workers' saving plan. It had a high of 32,000 
depositors and the company paid some $20,000,000 in interest during 
the life of the program. Left the entire period, f 100 got an employee 
$219.50 in interest alone as against $65 at usual bank rates. 



Edwin C. Hill, in Scribner's Magazine (1937) submitted 
a list of the world's richest men in which the Fords were 
ranked seventeenth. First was the Nizam of Hyderabad, 
""second Aga Khan III, and third the Bolivian Patino. Fifth 
and sixth were Georges de Wendell and Louis Louis- 
Dreyfus. 



BILLIONS 361 

The steward of his yacht Sialia quarreled with him in vain about 
making his own bed. During his cruises, Ford disappeared on ship 
board as he vanished from his office in the plant. He would slip into 
any one of several cabins and since there were many he was fairly sure 
of not being disturbed unless there was good reason. After his daily 
mid-morning or mid-afternoon nap he fixed the rumpled linen himself 
and straightened the room generally. 

The steward took him to task several times for this domesticity 
but it did no good. "That is what you have a staff for," he'd say to 
Ford with his best officer-to-owner tact, 

"I can make a bed and tidy up a place as well as any of them/* 
was all the steward got. Ford continued to smarten up staterooms after 
he used them. 

There was nothing orgiastic about life aboard. They poured tea 
at parties, net cocktails, although bumboats at Havana had a way of 
getting rum to sailors in harbor. He did not like the yacht much too 
much confinement in walking only around the deck or port to star 
board rail. He got most fun in a chair in a passageway from pantry 
to dining room. One entire side was glass and he could look down on 
a radiant engine room. 

Mr. and Mrs. Ford would see a deserted beach which promised 
sea shells and quietude. The yacht would move inshore, drop a small 
boat and it would take the couple through the breakers. The launch 
would turn about and go back; the yacht would stand to while the 
Fords rested contentedly in their isolation or explored the sands for 
shells. There was nothing especially giddy about it, but the effect was 
the same as daiquiris on other yachtsmen. 

He was never able to overcome the handicap of a tattling radio. 
If the yacht was coming into poit it was necessary, of course, to ask 
ahead for a place to berth and, invariably, the recipient of the message 
would notify the town that Henry Ford was docking. The Sialia would 
come in to crowded piers; in one case the port declared a half holiday. 

He complained of the Sialia growling, sawed it in two, and a lot 
of things happened. Marine engineers advised against the operation and 
said the cut would spoil the boat but Ford had it sliced in two, a 
twenty-foot bay added and an ethyl engine installed. The boat cost 
$500,000, and more than that to lengthen it, but it strained the ship's 
caulking so badly there were leaks later all over the place. 



362 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

The bill for the bay, the removal of the steam turbines and in 
stallation of new motors cost a million, according to its ex-Captain 
Walter McLean, and on the test run the Sialia was slightly slower than 
her original sixteen knots. A Model T could go four times as fast. 

In tearing out the galley he decided to replace an old stove with 
a modern electric range and it was thrown out and tossed on the dock. 
The plan was upset by an incident aboard the flagship of his merchant 
fleet while the yacht was in dry dock. Ford, sailing on the freighter, 
ordered cocoa for his grandchildren one morning and after a long wait, 
demanded to know what kind of service he was getting. 

"With electricity it takes longer to heat, Mr. Ford, you know," the 
steward reminded him. He had forgotten that. The day he got back to 
Detroit he hustled to the shipyards where the Sialia was being worked 
on and asked for the old stove. Thinking it was to be junked, the ship 
yard workers had pretty much demolished the stove in wrenching it 
loose. 

"Forget about the electric range," said Ford. "Send this stove back 
to the Rouge and tell them to rebuild it. I'm going to put it back in the 
boat." 

The range came back remade in ten days but the Ford miracle- 
workers had not been able to get Humpty-Dumpty together again with 
the original pieces. They practically had to make a new stove except 
for the oven doors and original lids, but it would bring cocoa to a boil 
fast and that's what he wanted when the grandchildren asked for 
cocoa on the yacht. 

He did not have much fun out of the Sialia (Indian for blue 
bird). He was not a good sailor and the confinement of a small deck 
was not to his liking. He really needed the promenade decks of several 
Normandies pasted together to be happy. The ship was Mrs. Ford's 
entertainment more than his. In the Gulf on a return trip from Cuba 
he really had it in a hurricane, for the Sialia was none too easy riding. 

Ordinarily, he spent most of his time reading in the sunroom 
or being read to, napping, watching the engines or playing an electric 
phonograph. Mrs. Ford kept her housekeeping eye on spots of spray on 
the sunroom glass and the panes had to be gone over twice or three 
times daily. The music room was seldom used and there was no fishing 
gear aboard. Just as he learned of scallops on his yacht, he also saw his 
first porpoise on a run to Havana. He was at dinner when he caught 



BILLIONS 363 

sight of them tumbling, and carrying his napkin with him he ran to the 
rail cheering and waving his handkerchief in the direction of the 
porpoises. 

He had his moods at sea, too. Coming north he swung in once 
at Boco Grande on the Florida Coast. Customs and immigration officials 
were on duty but the medical examiner was missing and Ford was 
informed that until he could get medical clearance he could not go 
ashore. This meant staying another restless night on the ship and Ford 
was in a dudgeon. After two hours of fruitless waiting, he radioed the 
White House and asked the removal of the medical examiner. 

But his early ire was forgotten an hour later as music curled 
up from the forecastle. He quietly sat down on the top step of the 
ladder leading below decks, and the steward found him there. 

"Don't tell the boys I'm here," Ford whispered conspiratorially. 

The steward sat on a chest near him and the two listened to a 
sailor with a saxophone and another with an harmonica play and sing 
a sweet and ribald program. Ford said that when he got back to 
Detroit he was going to get that deck-hand over to his dance floor and 
"if he had some real music in him we'll get it out of him." 

The sailor with the saxophone appeared at Dearborn by royal 
command several weeks later and gave a two-hour performance for 
Ford in the laboratory. Technicians outside the canvas wall, accustomed 
to novelty, never batted an eye as the note of a saxophone rose above 
the plant noises. 

The press of crowds wore him down. Many a huckster of Dear 
born would come upon Ford inspecting a bush that needed attention 
or stepping out lightly for an early-morning bracer alone and before the 
house staff was up. 

More than most tourists he knew newsboys and lamplighters, 
homegoing charwomen and milkmen on the Continent without their 
knowing him, for to be alone and unbothered he would get up at dawn 
and stroll out into the awakening streets to window-shop. Once he 
found himself drawn by the odors of baking into a Paris boulangerie 
and watched for a half hour a surprised baker at his tarts and croissants. 

In Oberammergau he routed the late Anton Lang, Chrisms of 
the "Passion Play," out of bed so they could wander unmolested in the 
fields on the edge of town and see a new sun come over the highlands 
and out upon the Ammer valley. 



364 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

I was walking with the Christus a few years later and he remem 
bered Ford well. 

"He was an early riser." The eyes of the Christus twinkled. "He 
will always be young," he said on second thought. 

When Ford left the Bavarian village, he told Lang to visit 
his company branch in Munich and pick out any automobile he wanted 
for himself in remembrance of the good time they had had together. 

Right over there it was : Anton pointed to a sedan with Bavarian 
plates and a man beside it who looked singularly like pictures of St. 
Peter. The man beside the car had played the apostle in the "Passion 
Play." He and one who had been Judas had borrowed the car the 
day before to go to Mitten wald, and apparently were just back. 

Peter was waiting now, a little depressed, beside the car for 
Anton. 

"Gruss Gott" said Peter. 

"Gruss Gott" said Anton. "Did all go well?" 

The actor-apostle stared at a tire of the car. 

"We had a blowout near Garmisch," he reported. "Lucky we had 
a spare." He was reproachful, though. "You had let the pressure in the 
extra tire get down to 15 pounds, Anton," he said. 

The Christus and St. Peter, except for the "Griiss Gott," might 
have been two men talking of road trouble in Ford's Dearborn, U.S.A. 

Paris alerted all depots stirete between the city and the Channel 
one year when Ford dropped out of a party on the way up from Havre 
and did not reappear until long after schedule. 

In a field outside Rouen he espied a piece of antique farm 
machinery such as he never had known before. For the next two hours 
he examined closely the way it worked and tried, without any French, 
to get information from a peasant who knew no English and had no 
idea what the foreigner was so gabby about. Ford wanted to buy it but 
he finally gave up when he drew a continuous blank and went on, 
defeated, to the Crillon. 

The game of estimating Ford wealth, infeasible as it was, re 
mained popular. Periodically appeared an article couched in tones 
which suggested that its composer had completed a world trek and had 
been privileged to peek into the bank books of the financial plutocracy. 

It was whispered in 1940 that Ford was no longer at the top of 
the league. He had abdicated, it was said, to the Nizam of Hyderabad 



BILLIONS 365 

definitely a name mentioned only casually in earlier forms which 
showed how millionaires were running. The Prince had been listed 
only tenth in the 30'$ but had seemingly hit a phenomenal jackpot, 
although his state finances were once described carefully by the 
Encyclopedia Britannica as "unhealthy." 

A 1940 list prepared by a writer for Hearst did not explain what 
had become of the $13200,000,000 accredited to Ford in the Times of 
1927. It simply gave the palm to the lucky Nizam at an even billion 
dollars. Next: 

Aga Khan III $800,000,000 

Simon I. Patino 700,000,000 

John D. Rockefeller, jr 700,000,000 

Henry Ford 500,000,000 

Duke of Westminster 400,000,000 

Presumably the most authoritative index of Ford family wealth 
was made public the same year by the Securities and Exchange Com 
mission. It revealed that thirteen American families, headed by Ford, 
controlled $2,700,574,000 worth of securities in 200 of the nation's lead 
ing corporations. 

The report submitted to 1 Monopoly Investigating Committee 
declared the Ford family had a $624,975,000 stake in the sprawling 
motor empire, and graded other dynasties in this order : 

Dupont, chemicals $573,690,000 

Rockefeller, oil 396,583,000 

Mellon, banking, aluminum 390,943,000 

McCormick, harvester 110,000,000 

Hartford, A. & P 105,000,000 

As a gauge of total wealth the SEC figures were short of perfect. 
The study was limited to corporate holdings and to the top twenty 
stockholders in each corporation. Thus, if the Rockefellers, for instance, 
owning 25,000 shares of I. T. & T., ranked twenty-first among the share 
holders, the value of their interest was not contained in the government 
tabulation. 

When a correspondent of the Associated Press traveled out from 
Bombay in 1944, the Nizam was still going doubly strong. The roving 



366 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

writer was appropriately stunned by a throne in such technicolor and a 
man upon it who, like Ford, did not play the part the way of mad 
Ludwig. 

By stick-to-It-iveness and cutting corners and apparently a lucky 
flyer, the Moslem ruler had added vast bays in four years to an already 
transcendent fortune, making two billion grow where only one had 
bloomed before. 

"The Nizam of Hyderabad," all AP subscribers were advised by 
prompt cable, "is known as the richest man in the world, but he wears 
shabby clothes, rides from palace to palace in an old car and watches 
his rupees carefully. The bookkeeperish monarch has been absolute 
ruler for 35 years of 16,000,000 persons in an Indian state about the size 
of France. Estimates of his wealth range up to two billion dollars." 

The large total of Mr. Ford's fun, his bedmaking and shell 
hunting, the enthusiasm for foot-races, and the climbing to locomotive 
cabs to ride the engineer's seat, a certain shyness and desire for solitude 
and remarks on money's inconsequence seemed to make him one, in 
homespun simplicity, with the poorly clad Nizam in his unpretentious 
car. 

He quoted McGuffey. He played on a fiddle as Thomas Jefferson 
did. He danced the polka and preferred a Corliss engine to any foal 
of Man o' War, a turning water-wheel to rubies. At seventy he read 
Jiggs and skated on the pond in front of the laboratory. He resuscitated 
the school house of Mary and her lamb, built a village and Edison 
Museum, and favored children's voices raised in chapel to the most 
robustious Caruso. 

These were his race horses, his figured goblets, his diamond 
stomacher and gallery of Ghirlandaios and, while each enterprise might 
be trumpeted as a gift to the commonweal, they were basically Ford's 
way of amusing himself. He took little warm-ups and long runs at 
many avocations and on each he spent without parsimony. 

When he was building his home and the press whooped it up as 
a $2,000,000 blend of Versailles and Sans Souci, he told his architect to 
figure on $250,000, or about half what he originally meant to spend. 
When his son was about to build a home, it was falsely reported that a 
moat would surround it. The word "moat" seeming to have an aristo 
cratic connotation, a denial was issued that any such feudalistic throw 
back was in anyone's mind. 



BILLIONS 367 

When the senior Ford put a new washer on a leaky faucet him 
self or took care of most of the mechanical repairs when the annual 
camping party was rolling., it was not the sign of the democrat so 
much as an enthusiasm for working with his hands. He arrived at his 
upstate farm one day to find an old-fashioned threshing rig broken and 
an irritated manager waiting for a repairman to come out from town. 

"I know something about these engines," said Ford, shedding his 
coat. "Let's you and I tackle it." He got off his coat, got under the 
machine, ripped off the balking ejector and soon had the rig running. 

But Mr. Ford, standing or prone beneath a thresher, was still 
the exacting and mercurial grand duke. He owned no elaborate town- 
house because he did not like towns but he, like the Nizam, could 
drive from one sumptuous house to another the place in Florida, the 
7,ooo-acre plantation in Georgia, the inn in Massachusetts. There was 
an establishment outside London, the quondam manor house of four 
Lord Kenyons; a place one time in Jersey, the estate in Dearborn. 
He bought so many farms in Michigan one was seldom out of sight 
of his holdings. He collected them and lakes, forests, mills as another 
might stamps or mustache cups. He was no monastic figure partial 
to humble lean-to, and the fact should be stated not because anyone 
expected him to be but because many thought he was. His protestations 
of indifference to money were ringed with fine exhibits of what he 
could do with it. 

The business of having no small change on him and having to 
borrow a dime or a dollar now and then became almost a standard act. 
After a while one began to suspect this was not ad libbing but part of 
a well planned script, especially written for reporters. 

If he'd had a pocketful of small coins there would have been no 
news, but a busted billionaire borrowing a nickel always was clean 
publishable fun. The country smiled. It felt one with him in what must 
have been a pretty embarrassing moment, as he fumbled. When he 
forgot to pay a hotel or restaurant bill, no one pursued him down the 
street or posted him as a dead-beat; a boniface of any brains ran 
businesslike, instead, to his publicity department. Ford, unable to muster 
a quick dime or dollar, made a three-column cut; walking out absent- 
mindedly on a hotel bill was good for a waggish note in any column. 

Under Henry Ford's inkwell was a constant $200. It was checked 
each morning before he arrived, and if any had been removed the pre- 



368 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

vious day the difference was made up so there always would be that 
amount to draw on. A few feet away was his private vault and there 
was $1,744,500 to the penny in it when its custodian was fired and as 
his last act checked the contents with the records. Twenty years before 
the jocular Henry said he was glad to get three dollars I paid him for 
golf balls said he had come away from home without a cent on him. 
It pleased me to find he was all fixed in 1944 against the day he would 
ever be so remiss again* 



Predicted battle of the cen 
tury is a wet firecracker when 
Ford, capitulating, says yes to 
everything including demands 
made only for trading pur 
poses. 



CHAPTER XXIII 
LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 



Because we thought ourself thy lawful king: 
And if we be, how dare thy joints forget 
To pay their awful duty to our presence? 
If we be not, show us the hand of God 
That hath dismiss'd us from our stewardship. 

Richard II. 

'ENRY FORD refused to acknowledge there could be two 
points of view with merit to each. Men who differed with him 
were wrong and if something did not agree with what he 

JL thought it wasn't true. He had a serene, imperial confidence 
in his judgment and except in rare instances complete distrust of the 
views of others. In this he did not consider himself bullheaded but 
rather Messianic, his wisdom confirmed by what he had done and be 
come and what was said of him, but in his last battle the crystal ball 
cracked and betrayed him. He thought trade unionism a phenomenon 
that would pass. The drums would die out. 

He was gradually sold on the idea there were little groups mis 
leading the general run of workers. He did not believe what men said 
on the outside was representative of what his employees thought, and 
some men fed and fattened his belief, because they believed so, too, or 
because that was the way he thought. 

When Chevrolet sales jumped ahead of his the figures had been 

369 



370 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 



doctored. Polls and survWs which did not bear out his conclusions 
were faked. By a somewhJytoecious reasoning he decided that actually 
his competitors were responsj!kfor his troubles. When General Motors 
and Chrysler made peace with ol^^d labor it was a trick to put 



him in a hole. Well, he was 
ing alone in it. He'd 
went all out, granted' 
and he smirked as h 
defeat he would sal 
in a boat, didn't it, a: 
and over to theirs to na 

He was pla: 
said herself, ; 





the trackless forest or of walk- 
But when he did surrender he 
check-off, or more than they, 
n at his rivals' roofs. Out of 
iumph. His generosity put them 
union would go away from his place 
liberalization ? 
-s under foot, as his Aunt Ella 



was 



was. She used the word when he sent a 
eighty-three and told him to hang 
Ihristmas he delivered twenty-five 
Drld, Henry, am I going to do with 
And in a second breath: "You're 
d there were still twenty pictures of 
ng before and after she was gone he 
Alfred P. Sloan. 

.eir employees as well as he had 
his he believed the black cloud of strikes and sit-downs and slow-ups 
would 'never have blown up. Backward management had asked for 
trouble by failure to subscribe to his principles. 

No one was more crestfallen than he, therefore, when 97.3 per 
cent of his River Rouge workers in a National Labor Relations Board 
election in 1941 stated a preference for union representation despite his 
averments, neither true, that his men were not sold on unionism and 
were not interested because they knew there was no sense in paying dues 
to get out of him what he was perfectly willing to give. 

His words were: "The union says: 'There are 100,000 jobs at 
Ford's. If you want one, you must pay us a registration fee and so much 
every month, and we will pass you in and you will work as long as 
you pay us.'" He always had thought of labor in terms of obedience. 
I remember his saying long ago : "I have a thousand men who, if I say, 
*Be at the northeast corner of the building at 4 o'clock/ will be there 
at 4 o'clock. That's what we want obedience." 

His views were disavowed in the government booths. Notice 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 371 

was served that his men would be at the corner of the building at 4 
only conditionally. The vote was a conclusive 72,233 for a union and 
only 1,958 against. It exposed for the bosh it was the constant reiteration 
that of course any Ford worker who wished to belong to a union was 
free to do so, whereas the odds were that the new brother, and par 
ticularly if he were an eager beaver, would last on the job only until 
the plant police heard the news and got him out of the place before 
he defiled others. The new unionist could also be transferred to a job 
so unpleasant he'd prefer to quit, thus relieving the company of any 
suspicion that he had been discriminated against for union enthusiasms. 

The complete belief of the senior Ford in the perfection of his sys 
tem was such that had he been still alive at the time, he probably would 
have been equally set back, as he was by the NLRB vote, by a letter 
transmitted by Henry Ford II, his grandson, appealing to 3800 striking 
company foremen in 1947 to return to their jobs. One paragraph was 
particular proof of reversed philosophy. 

"I agree with those of you who have expressed the opinion that 
the Foremen's Association grew out of past injustices and the failures of 
past management, but we are trying hard to make things different 
around here." 

The mettlesome dean of global mass production might have been 
piqued to know he had left rubble around and to hear his eldest 
grandson admit publicly he had found it, was sorry it was there and 
was trying his best to clean it up. The grandson had no trouble dis 
covering what his grandfather said wasn't there. A thousand firings 
and "resignations" and retirements were proof of more than a young 
enthusiast's fancy for new fkces. 

It was not unnatural that the padishah of Dearborn regarded 
union labor an unworthy trespassing force. So that no one could cross 
him he gave his minority stockholders some $100,000,000 in 1919 
for their holdings. Having paid so handsomely to disengage himself 
from interference in that quarter, it was hardly to be expected he would 
let down the bars voluntarily to any second filibusterous group, armed 
with graphs, wage tables, cost of living figures and other such modern 
luggage certainly strange to a Ford who wouldn't have even an organi 
zational chart in the place. These new intruders boldly said in advance 
if they ever got in they would want more money and improved shop 
conditions, two matters on which he believed his record unassailable. 



372 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

He had no intention of making such a forfeit without a struggle. He 
had dumped by purchase the shareholders who told him or might have 
wanted to tell him what to do; he eliminated by firing executives who 
expressed some doubt at times of what he proposed. He got rid of 
William S. Knudsen, brilliant production man and later president of 
General Motors, and later said blithely, "I'd rather argue with him out 
side the company than in it." Ford went on prospering without them, 
which to him was the proof of the pudding. 

For a time he thought the marching men might not turn down 
his street. They would go straight past and let him alone. They must 
recognize and appreciate that his orchestra never would play as sweetly 
for a mess of shop stewards as when led by the proven top-most con 
ductor. Certainly there could be no more than one baton going at a 
time. He knew what was to the worker's advantage. Papa knew best. 
If there was a better way to run his place than the way he did, or any 
machine to lessen backache, his men knew they could rely on him to 
change methods sooner and improve machinery faster than could any 
mouthy agitator waving handbills at the gate. 

Why should they think otherwise? Had not a whole body of 
favorable literature grown in praise of his philosophy of good pay, 
short hours and low prices? He was on their side, wasn't he? Go to the 
record! Hadn't he summed up this whole question of high wages in a 
few crisp sentences? 

"The progress of this country was not accomplished by impover 
ishing workmen. What good is a man who just makes a living he isn't 
a market for anything. When a man has only enough to buy bread 
he is a poor member of society and the worst kind of a customer." 

His head was always stuck through the hole in the canvas for 
anyone to toss a ball at. When he opened his stand, and for years after, 
he was a favorite target of the wellfed, those who wanted to run the 
economy their way and who saw something disruptive in Ford's sys 
tem. They had ideas about paying a worker as little and charging a 
customer as much as possible. 

The carriage-trade changed its tune, however. Putting down the 
balls with which they used to pelt him, the occupants began to say 
even in the Twenties that perhaps he was a jolly good fellow and a fine 
example of the American way and that possibly he hid something in 
his theory they were first so skittish about. The new marksmen who 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 373 

picked up the balls to throw at him wore overalls and spoke of speed-up 
and technological displacement, time studies and wage differentials and 
espionage and of drained men going home on street-cars hardly able 
to lift their eye-lids. Papers which had once made love to him printed 
villification; some which once looked his way fretfully and prematurely 
tried to measure him for quick oblivion now turned to sonnets and made 
his every vocal bead a pearl. 

A seminarian writing in The Christian Century said Ford was 
a symbol of America which had risen almost in a generation from an 
agrarian to an industrialist economic order "and now applies the 
social intelligence of a country village to the most complex industrial 
life the world ever has known." Ford was undisturbed. Criticism only 
honed his saber. 

When Henry Ford established his $5 day minimum, the well-fed 
men trotted out the full crew of scarecrows except one. It was im 
possible for them to say his plan was the impractical dream of a 
visionary who never had to meet a payroll. 

When the motormaker introduced the five-day week, John M. 
Edgerton, then president of the National Association of Manufacturers, 
gripped his Bible with a firm hand and wailed that the Fifth Com 
mandment had for sixty centuries been the perfect and divinely pre 
sented basis of human toil and social contentment, and most of Mr. 
Edgerton's members thought he put it very well. 

"Ford may try to amend the Decalogue," he prattled despond 
ently, "but any general acceptance of a five-day week means a surrender 
to easy and loose living." 

The shortening of the week, men of Edgerton's mind shuddered, 
would create a craving for additional luxuries to occupy the additional 
time, would be against the interests of those who wished to work and 
advance, and mean a trend toward the arena. There was a solemn 
shaking of forefingers. 

"Rome did that and Rome died," said a gentleman who sud 
denly became sad over good old Rome and what had happened to it. 
The ranking officer of Westinghouse Air Brake said he felt the average 
worker would not like being coerced by Mr. Ford or any one else into 
curtailing his work hours. 

The volatile Ford had raised his minimum to $6 a day in 1919 
to anguished cries from the conservative benches. Maybe he did not do 



374 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

it for humanitarian reasons and possibly only because it seemed good 
business, but those who worked for him cashed their profits whichever 
way it was. No law forced him to give the original $5 minimum, the $6 
or the later $7. Moneyed Europe quailed in 1929 when he asked the 
League of Nations for a survey of Continental wages and announced 
he had in mind a plan to pay the workers in his 20-odd factories abroad 
the equivalent of what he was paying in the United States. Those who 
owned the check-books of Europe moaned that this would be a terrible 
thing to do and that le jordisme would tip the whole economy. In Rus 
sia he was Mr. Big and his tractors beloved. Metal workers of Berlin 
struck against an 8 per cent cut in 1930 and Ford, in Germany at the 
time, promptly announced a 10 per cent increase in his Berlin assembly 
plant. 

Herbert Hoover, in the growing panic of the stock market col 
lapse of 1929, asked him to do something to brace public confidence 
and Ford walked out to the press room and announced he was returning 
to Detroit to raise his basic wage from $6 to $7. "You don't wait for 
people to create prosperity and then give them back a little of it in 
their own pay envelopes." The company paid the emergency dollar for 
22 months at a total increased cost of $35,000,000 to the company, and 
dropped it only when Ford found himself virtually the only one with 
a finger in the dyke. 

The volume of evidence of Ford's willingness to spend on wages 
is a record of voluntary action, however. He liked to play Santa Glaus 
but when he put on the red suit and white beard he did so because 
he wanted to. He never anticipated a day when a valet in the form of 
a trade union would lay out the suit and beard on the bed, saying, 
"Henry, put these on," and then force him into them. 

It was one-man rule, unquestionably. He summoned his produc 
tion and cpst men in 1921 and told them to set new prices that would 
move cars in face of a deepening depression. Then he drifted away, 
leaving them to figure and only putting in his head occasionally to see 
how things were going. At 5 p. M. they submitted the price schedule. 

"Get them lower," he barked, flintily, and left them with the 
puzzle. 

They shaved a little here and there and finally got to what they 
regarded irreducible bedrock. Ford again shook his head. He reached 
into his own pocket and pulled out a single sheet of paper on which 
he had pencilled some figures. 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 375 

"Here, gentlemen, are the new prices!" He handed the sheet to 
the nearest man. 

The table was in immediate pandemonium. They said it couldn't 
be done. They squalled the company would go broke. Ford gathered 
up the listed figures and made some changes not up but in two cases 
down. "There they are," he said and left his brass hats in an unbecom 
ing fit. The couldn't-be-done price slashes ushered in the greatest era 
of profit the company had. 

Ford's self-esteem swelled naturally as he grew in the public eye 
and he became a one-man brain trust listening to an inner voice but 
no other. The only thing unshaken in the times of storm was Mr. 
Ford's belief in himself as paramount. It was an understandable con 
fidence since it constantly was being pumped by witless eulogy. 

He promised to address a New York group in 1938. On his way 
he had an unencouraging talk at the White House and by the time he 
reached Madison Avenue and The Ritz had changed his mind about 
the speech. He would not make it. 

A former Detroit newspaperman in New York, Frank D. Webb, 
got a frantic call from an automobile editor of a Manhattan paper who 
had obtained Ford's promise to speak in the first place. Would Webb 
intercede and see if the motormaker could be talked into getting on his 
feet and saying something anything? 

"I'm certainly on the spot," grumbled the distrait editor, and 
said he was bound to catch a spanking from his boss if the curtain 
went up and no Ford. 

The Detroiter said he would see what he could do. He agreed 
dubiously to talk to William Cameron, Ford's editor, who was accom 
panying him on the Eastern trip. Cameron listened. Yes, Mr. Ford 
and he were going over to the Waldorf for dinner but the boss would 
not talk. 

"But Charlie here is right on the spot, Bill," wheedled the De 
troit interventionist. Charlie agreed he definitely was and headed for 
a pack of trouble. "Everybody has been promised that Mr. Ford will 
talk. Originally he said he would. Can't you get him up on his feet 
for just a stickful of wisdom?" 

The Ford editor said he was not so sure he could do much about 
it The boss had expressed himself pretty definitely. Well, he'd see what 
he could do about it. 

Cameron apparently won Ford's consent before he went into 



3?6 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

the dinner for when the motormaker got to his feet co-operatively to say 
exactly thirty words as a favor to the automobile editor, the opening 
bars of his sparse speech were strangely reminiscent. They ran: 

"Ladies and gentlemen: We are certainly all on the spot. (The 
automobile editor's plaint had stuck in Ford's head.) Stick to your 
guns! I will help you, with the assistance of my son, all I can. I thank 
you." 

The words were hardly exciting, as dinner speeches go, but they 
were to one New York newspaper. It seemed that Mr. Ford had de 
livered a second Gettsyburg address. It was little wonder he became 
sure of his almightiness. The sponsoring journal gurgled in reporting 
its guest of honor : 

"These thirty words pack all the wisdom and encouragement 
necessary. They mean : 'This is a tough country. Here's a prediction that 
it will beat the New Deal before the New Deal beats it/ " 

The paper, happy with its paraphrase, called what Mr. Ford had 
said "the soul of true Americanism." 

He put up only one new lightning rod not on the barns of those 
who otherwise thought of the labor movement as he did. Collier's sent 
Charles W. Wood to ask him in 1923 what he would do if elected 
President of the United States, and Ford's offering on trade unionism 
was: 

''Unions are organized by Jewish financiers, not labor, as a 
scheme to interrupt work." (At the time the motormaker was riding 
herd against international bankers.) "They speed up loafing. A union 
is a neat thing for a Jew to have on hand when he comes around to 
get his clutches on an industry." 

When he approached the crucial test with the Congress of 
Industrial Organizations, he discussed with F. Raymond Daniell, of 
the New York Times, another theory. 

"Those movements supposed to serve the workingman," he put 
it to the Times, "are simply pulling out chestnuts of the financial inter 
ests and dividend school of business. The control high finance wants is 
not complete with the control of management it must have absolute 
control of labor, too. It is doing its level best to get it. I think, though, 
that labor will prove too smart for that." 

Stock-jobbers and finance, he said, were trying to raise prices and 
cut wages by obtaining control of labor as well as management. Did he 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 377 

have any objection, as an industrial principle, to labor organiza 
tion? 

"Most of the business men of this country come out of labor. 
Where else could they come from?" he asked. "I belong to labor.' It is 
all I've done all my life. 

"Where does collective bargaining begin? Not with the manager 
and his men but between the manager and the public. He must pro 
duce an article the public will find useful and at a price the public will 
pay. If the quality is low or the price too high, or for any reason the 
public does not find it as profitable to buy as it is to sell, there is no 
bargain. Consequently there is ho business and no wages and no field for 
that specialized 'collective bargaining' we hear about today. 

"If the producer is successful in making an article of a quality 
and price that interests the public you will find he has not accomplished 
it by maintaining bad working conditions or low wages in his shop. 
If things are not right in the shop they cannot be right outside. 

"Irresponsible parties undertake to force a manager to do more 
than he can, but if he succumbs he is on the downgrade just as if he 
sold his goods at half cost. There is a balance that represents progress 
and prosperity. Destroy it at the behest of some special interest and you 
are through. Some men succumb to this pressure and try to make the 
extra cost out of the public. The public stops buying and the business 
is through. There certainly is such a thing as killing the goose that lays 
the golden egg, but nobody has to be goose enough to let that happen 
to him." 

He told James I. Kilgallen, a Hearst writer, at his Georgia estate 
that he knew positively a big industrial combination was behind the 
unions and its one purpose was to put him out of business, raise prices, 
cut wages. Asked to name the merged conspirators, he wouldn't or 
couldn't. 

His company had had collective bargaining for 20 years, he said, 
and had forgotten more about it than a lot of people ever knew. He tied 
a set of Fordisms to each time card a few days before the decisive NLRB 
voting: 

A monopoly of labor in this country is just as bad as a mon 
opoly of bread! 

Union organizers ask us to sit still while they sell our men 
the jobs that have always been free. 

What was the result of these strikes merely that numbers of 



378 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

men put their neck into an iron collar. I'm only trying to show 
who owns the collar, 

I have always made a better bargain for our men than an 
outsider could. We have never had to bargain against our men 
and we don't expect to begin now. 

There is no mystery about the connection between corpora 
tion control and labor control. They are the two ends of the same 
rope. A little group of those who control both capital and labor 
will sit down in New York and settle prices, dividends and 
wages. 

"The Ford Motor Company has had its own Labor Relations Act 
for years, and I'd be ashamed to have anyone tell us our conditions and 
pay were wrong," he insisted. 

If, he asked, union leaders thought they could manage an auto 
mobile factory better than he and pay better wages under better work 
ing conditions, why didn't they build a factory of their own and "show 
us up"? 

Always The Job was the thing to Ford the job and the speckless 
plant. The living of a country, he'd say, is not where men trade but 
where 'they work . . . every man can find a job either by discovering or 
creating it ... the finest thing in the world is a good job. Work was a 
cure-all. Those who' did not work as constantly or intensely as he did 
were lazy. He worshipped work and the machine on which it was done. 
He had a compulsion neurosis. He said the chances to do things were 
wasted for takers and that too much could never be produced because 
human want was limitless. He worked for play. "Let's have a Do-Your- 
Best Day, not a Do-Your-Most Day." 

Thomas Edison unexpectedly slipped his hand into Ford's hip 
pocket on one of their camping holidays in the Smokies and the motor- 
maker looked at him in surprise. 

"What are you looking for?" 

"I figure you always carry a lighted bunch of firecrackers in your 
clothes somewhere," said the inventor. "Slow to a walk for a while, 
will you? I get tired of motion pictures." 

The patriarch of the electric light would relax beside a stream, 
gazing into space; the gentleman from Dearborn would race up and 
down the bank, measuring the fall of water. He saw no fish in the 
brook or cooling shade under cooling tree but only the energy if the 
stream was harnessed. 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 379 

James Sweinhart, a Detroit News veteran who enjoyed Ford's 
confidence, answered the telephone beside his bed at i o'clock one morn 
ing. If he would come to Dearborn immediately Ford said he had a 
story to release on some experimentation on cheap alcohol devised from 
vegetable waste. "Come right out to the laboratory to the Fair Lane 
garage." Sweinhart took a taxi to the estate. He arrived at 2.45 A.M. The 
laboratory was ablaze with lights. An odd engine stood on a chassis 
to one side of the room. Ford was at work on it had been since mid- 
afternoon the previous day. He was bare to the waist, his white trousers 
smeared with grease and oil. He hadn't taken time out for dinner. To 
another side of the laboratory a chemist had been working earlier on 
some food concentrates and had left a quart of milk. Sweinhart and 
Ford took a swig out of that and got down to their business. 

He sloshed through a driving storm into the plant one night in 
high rubber boots and coat and ordered the place closed for 48 hours 
for cleanup. Said he found dirt in a dozen places. 

"I knew there was something wrong when he came in," an old 
watchman told me. "It was the first time in six years he didn't say 
'Hello, Tom/ He was pretty mad." 

Activity is life . . . idleness was what got the world into trouble 
. . . hard work in the physical sense was out of date . . . Man was better 
than a beast of burden . . . The fist as a hammer and the arm as a lever 
were no longer practical ... it was a badly managed shop where a man 
did what a machine could do ... we must lift the burden off flesh and 
blood. His idea of good, said one analyst, was work; his idea of life 
work, and undoubtedly his idea of death was something that plunged 
man into interminable toil. 

Round and round in his head always went the same song a full 
belief, despite the coronary tables and rising consumption of bicar 
bonate, that hard work never killed anyone. Yet Ford himself loved 
only particular kinds of work. The farm lost him when he was a boy 
because he didn't like that kind of labor, although of course this was 
later to be made into a virtue and explained by a story that he went to 
work in an urban machine shop really to find some way to make a 
machine that would lighten toil on the farm. It is more likely this 
account is apocryphal. Moreover, he moved swiftly from one piece of 
work to another; he was not out on a press in his plant, hour after hour, 
putting a piece of metal into process and n seconds later taking a bored 



380 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

piece off and lifting a new piece on. Certainly he would not have been 
interested in doing for long the repetitious operations evolved by him 
for others to do. 

The misbegotten impression was created that before he came and 
took all the gimp out of men at forty that toil was heavenly and man 
lived a larkish life singing .each day away. In July of last year when 
announcement was made jointly by the company and the UAW-CIO 
that agreement had been tentatively reached on the first retirement 
plan for hourly rated employees in the automotive industry, a plan later 
rejected by the union rank and file, one minor point in the bargaining 
was whether the average age of Ford's workers was forty-six, as the com 
pany said, or forty-seven, as the union said. It disposed of the long-lived 
charge that the pace burned automobile workers out by forty. 

Not being afraid of work himself, he asked that those on his 
payroll give him a full day of it, too, since that was what he paid for,, 
and even if there was a slight difference between Ford's check and 
that of Joe Doakes, the foundry hand, Ford, in fact, didn't ask any 
more from Doakes than he would have been willing to give Doakes if 
their positions had been reversed. One trouble was not peculiar to him. 
When he started he had fifty or so employees whom he knew by 
their first names. When he left off, he had 100,000, all numbered. No 
one could remember that many numbers. 

The plant was his baby and he looked after it as if it was one. 
Everything pertaining to it had to be on a strictly business basis. He 
went to Europe with a friend, a man of decent fortune himself. The 
wives went along and the quartet covered a lot of ground, drawn 
close in the weeks of touring. The friend, who had a company in a 
non-competing line, began to experiment with carburetion after he got 
home and when he stumbled on a process which seemed applicable to 
motor cars he thought of his fellow voyager. If what he had turned out 
worked as he thought it would, an automobile owner would be able 
to get many more miles per gas gallon. He'd better tell Henry about it, 
certainly let him have it. He arranged a luncheon. 

Ford asked a great many questions but chilled eventually. He 
went on with his eating and seemed to have lost interest. His companion 
wondered what had gotten into the moody man across the table. Then 
he found out. 

"Just one thing," Ford broke out of his sheath. The guest looked 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 381 

up, glad of explanation for the silence. "This must be handled on a 
strictly business basis, with no account of our personal relationship." 

The surprised friend had only one answer for that the answer 
he had had from the beginning. 

"Why, I brought it out to give it to you, Henry," he said softly. 

Ford tended the plant closely. A superintendent tells of a time 
when Ford had given an order to mend a machine. A shield had broken 
and hung out in an aisle. Whoever was instructed to do the job ap 
parently forgot to pass the word along that the assignment was 
sacred cow that the boss himself had ordered it. The motormaker 
came back in three hours and the shield still protruded. He walked away 
and returned in five minutes with a sledge. He disposed of the damaged 
equipment himself with a few devastating blows which ruined it 
completely. 

The company got complaints when the one-piece block of the 
V-8 first appeared. Some cylinder walls were too thin. For some reason 
the motormaker's orders to get busy on the problem immediately were 
not carried out promptly. He impatiently put on overalls the third morn 
ing and walked out onto the floor of the shop to make certain the error 
was corrected. 

Early clues to the reason for labor turning on him are possibly 
provided by Dean Samuel S. Marquis and E. G. Pipp, two top-ranking 
Ford officials who resigned in the Twenties. Marquis headed the 
sociological department; Pipp edited Ford's weekly at its start. Both 
were in positions to observe and both wrote books on what they did 
observe. 

The Marquis work, Henry Ford An Interpretation, was dis 
missed by Ford himself as "about the parson, not me." It became more 
or less a collector's item and copies stocked by the Detroit Public Li 
brary disappeared strangely and with such rapidity that there was much 
wondering as to whether the plant service men had withdrawn them 
and forgotten to bring them back. So many vanished in such a short 
time that the library retired remaining copies to its non-circulating 
shelves. 

One excerpt: 

"The old group of executives, who at times set justice and hu 
manity above profits and production, were gone in 1921. Then came 
to the front men whose theory was that men are more profitable to 



382 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

industry when driven, that fear is a greater incentive to work than 
loyalty . . . and who felt the one sure way to get production and profits 
was to curse, threaten, drive, insult, humiliate and discharge labor on 
the slightest provocation; in short, to use a phrase much on the lips of 
such men, to 'put the fear of God into labor.' " 

Pipp wrote in Henry Ford Both Sides of Him, in 1926: 

"As time went on I learned Ford had an inclination to use the 
lash of his power more and more upon those who opposed him. The-e 
also grew the desire to produce more and more at less and less cost, to 
get more out of the men and machinery than ever had been gotten out 
of them. The idea that Ford was adored by his men has certainly never 
existed except outside Detroit. It was the son Edsel who enjoyed uni 
versal respect." I 

The senior Ford indicated himself some change of heart from 
what he professed when the $5 day went into effect. In his My Life and 
WorJ^ f done in collaboration with Samuel Crowther, he said: 

"Some organizations use up so much energy and time maintaining 
a feeling of harmony they have no force left to work for the object 
for which the organization was created. The only harmonious organiza 
tion that is worth anything is one in which all members are bent on 
one purpose Hot to get along with itself but to get along to the objec 
tive. I pity the soft and flabby who must have an atmosphere of good 
feeling before they can do their work." 2 

,Ford became a chronic critic of the Roosevelt administration. 
He bought for himself a growing opposition in the shop in the Thirties 
when presumably embittered and unforgiving after his first joust with 
the New Deal, as represented by the National Recovery Act, he grew 
prolific in. fault finding. He joined the "That Man" club. 

Once when he got home after a visit to the White House, a news 
bureau chief asked what he and F. D. R. had talked about. 

"Well," he said; "he took up the first five minutes telling me 
about his ancestry." The motormaker said he did not know why this 
was "unless Roosevelt wanted to prove he had no Jewish blood." 

Crop control was worse than common thievery. The NRA 
was a scheme to turn industry over to labor unions. The terms of the 
Wagner Act were dictated quite likely by Wall Street. He got to saying 

1 Henry Ford Both Sides of Him, by E. G. Pipp, Pipp's Magazine. 
* My Life and Wor\, Henry Ford and Samuel Crowther, Doubleday. 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 383 

such things as "the world always has been ruled by mediocre men" 
and "an expert is a man to tell you only what was being done down 
to closing time day before yesterday" and "the United States will be 
in good shape when Santa Glaus puts on his pajamas and goes back 
to bed," and "the New Deal is the handmaiden of international 
financiers" and "to hear a lot of people talk the greatest object in life is 
to achieve unemployment." These economists were not doers. He said 
it was no more fun to be rich and idle than poor and idle but when 
he said it the company surplus balance never had fallen, even in the 
worst years of the depression, below a half billion dollars and dividends 
were passed only in 1929 and 1932. 

Here is a striking personality, said The Christian Century, who 
has made more than ordinary industrial success, with humane impulses 
-now slightly corrupted, with a social philosophy not advanced beyond 
the doctrinaire individualism of the nineteenth century, and yet the 
world believes he expresses something new in industrial ethics. 

Advisers tried to dissuade him in his fight with NRA and 
Gen. Hugh Johnson, its administrator, when he refused to be a 
signatory to the automobile code. He wouldn't change said if he 
put his name to the code he'd have to live down to it, said it was 
a conspiracy to sell him down the river. Some executives argued the 
national stress was such the company's position might alienate the 
public. 

Johnson tried to bully. Ford didn't scare. He said signing a code 
wasn't in the law. "The Blue Eagle isn't the law. 'The General's daily 
expression of opinion isn't the law." He said he'd wait until the final 
terms were made and then go them one better. He did as he said. 
After the industry, exclusive of him, agreed to a 35-hour week and 
a minimum of 40 to 43 cents, he set a five-day, 40-hour schedule with a 
50-cent minimum. No union, he said, could give his men anything 
they did not already have. 

He did not say much about the President himself but his editor 
maintained a steady cannonading and spoke sarcastically of men "piec 
ing new paper worlds together out of fragments of ancient fallacies." 

Out in the shop men grumbled. Washington could not be 150 per 
cent wrong as its opponents made it out. Ford might not like what 
was being done, but Wayne county, Michigan, voting residence of the 
bulk of Ford workers, gave Roosevelt an edge of 100,000 over Hoover, 



384 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

200,000 over Landon, 175,000 over Willkie. Ford's political influence, 
if there ever had been any, over the boys in the shop waned and it is 
not impossible the sharp pronouncements of his proxy alienated many 
of them. 

Labor leaders ? His editor explained who they were : 

"The title 'Labor Leader' given anyone whose influence is to 
ward idleness by strikes is assuredly a misnomer. Men who through 
initiative lead their fellows to work, and through work lead them to 
wages, and through wages to higher standards of personal and family 
life, these are the men who rightfully should be known as labor lead 
ers. They multiply opportunities for work. No one calls them Labor 
Leaders, yet they alone have led labor in its rise and labor has followed 
them more than it has followed any other." 

It was charged that service men hid behind posts to catch workers 
at some violation of safety rules; that workers were framed so they 
could be fired. There were complaints of discriminatory layoffs, a 
blacklist, espionage, production schedules unrelated to human endur 
ance, blistering speedups, the monotony of repetitious operations, wage 
rates not in line with the rate for the work done, transfers to unbearable 
jobs to get rid of recalcitrants, foremen and superintendents as afraid 
of losing their jobs as the men they supervised, discharges for emery 
dust under a bench, for failure to tighten correctly one nut in, say, a 
fender on a pick-up truck. 

It was complained that espionage prevailed from roof to base 
ment, that in a labor demonstration company pictures were taken and 
Ford workers identified in the crowd discharged; that lockers were 
searched for union literature. How many of the whispers wer? true 
and how many weren't was anybody's guess, but they crowded the air 
and men believed them. 

Discipline was declared so severe that it was not unusual for 
some foremen to hide behind machinery at the approach of certain 
overseers. It was not unusual for a stool to be kicked from under a 
worker; it was said that service men, unannounced, were stationed as 
spies in departments pretending to be regular workers. Some held that 
the union was not organizing the plant but that the company was 
organizing the union by its own policies. Workers said: "Some of Ford's 
trouble is not due to his own uncertainty what he wants but to an 
inability to make clear to other men what he has in mind," Others said 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 385 

the senior Ford was well aware of what transpired and that the system 
had his consent. 

The question remained unanswered how Ford could know the 
frictions in a place so big, of what was going on among or being done 
to 100,000 men. 

And then the day came when the provocateurs, a token group, 
were there two men on an overpass leading from a streetcar loading 
platform above a road into the fenced Rouge grounds. One was Walter 
P. Reuther, now international president of the UAW, and then head 
of a Detroit local who had been exceedingly vocal in a General Motors 
.sitdown in Flint, Michigan, a year before. The other was Richard T. 
Frankensteen, organizational director. They were looking over the 
ground preparatory to circularizing employees. 

A decade later Henry Ford II, intelligently abreast of his times, 
would seek out Reuther at union headquarters, and the two would sit 
in friendliest fashion for an hour across the table from each other look 
ing to narrow the field of future disagreement. 

Attacked as they reached the top of the overpass, the coats of 
Reuther and Frankensteen were jerked over their heads to pinion their 
arms, and the two men were then kneed in the groin, kicked, slugged 
and eventually kicked from the bridge. Their some 25 companions 
below got a lighter mauling, but the resultant picture shots of press 
photographers who managed to get away with unsmashed plates were 
reminiscent of a gangster film in the best tradition. Company spokes 
men said, among other things, that the disturbance had been whipped 
up by newspapers which for six months "had cried for a Ford strike 
story." 

There followed specious argument for weeks revolving whimsi 
cally around the question whether those who administered the beating 
were service men, as the union claimed, or just righteous "loyal" 
employees, indignant at invasion, as the company said; lies and counter- 
lies, truths and counter-truths, firings, hearings, court actions. Bennett, 
chief of the plant police, said he was lunching with two newsmen a 
good distance from the entrance when the row started and had said 
when telephoned by an aid: "Let them peddle if they want to." He 
added: "Nobody is going to storm Mr. Ford's gates!" 

Ford went to the Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati to 
dispute an order of the National Labor Relations Board, following 



386 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

examination of 150 witnesses, which directed the company to reinstate 
22 discharged employees, cease discrimination. The Appeals Court 
refused to change the order, and the company went on to the United 
States Supreme Court, which upheld the NLRB except it supported 
Ford's right to express in print his views on union organization by any 
legitimate means he chose. 

The fight on the overpass touched off trouble which spread 
through subsidiaries from California to Texas to Massachusetts. 

Violence at Kansas City. Trouble at Buffalo. Five NLRB 
charges against unlawful labor practices at Chicago. A strike at Edge- 
water, N. J., and Ford workers sit masked at a Jersey CIO convention 
bearing a banner, "Well take these masks off when Ford obeys United 
States laws." NLRB orders 975 employees reinstated at Kansas City 
with back pay. Dissolution of an alleged company union is directed. 
A charge that after one plant closed, rehiring was based on membership 
in a blue-card shop organization. Union buttons torn off work shirts. 
NLRB charges discrimination at Somerville, Mass. The Liberty Legion 
of America forms. Sixty unionists arrested for alleged assault on St. 
Louis workers. The Buffalo management accused of ten unfair practices. 
Arrests for distributing handbills. Ford Brotherhood members offer 
to buy a car apiece in exchange for a $1,500 guaranteed annual wage. 
A witness testifies Bennett paid a former union official $3,500 in $20 
bills. Government orders reinstatement of 450 discharged workers at 
Long Beach, California. 

Tactics at Dallas, Tex., build into a cause cttibre. An NRLB 
examiner takes a millipn words of testimony of alleged high-handedness 
tapped wires, beatings, tar and feathers, men in company cars spotted 
throughout the city kicking up trouble, a new contribution to the 
industrial arsenal in a whip formed by pleating electric light wire and 
rubber stripping. An Illinois organizer sues for a million and claims he 
was taken from a municipal park, coated with tar and feathers on the 
outskirts of town, beaten unconscious and thrown in front of a news 
paper office where a photographer was waiting. 

An assistant foreman of Kansas City passing through on his way 
to Galveston with his wife testifies he was ordered to get out of his 
car and into another, was driven to the city limits, finally persuaded 
his captors of the truth of his statements, was released with the warn 
ing, "Don't join the CIO or you'll get what the rest got," Another 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 387 

Kansas City Ford employee tells of being halted in Dallas on a visit 
with his wife to her grandfather, being knocked down and beaten 
with switches, and his wife told: "If you love your husband, get him 
out of Dallas." An employee of 18 years' service swears he was flogged 
for a quarter hour. A national convention of the CIO threatens a boy 
cott of Ford products if the Dallas management persists. 

The company held it was a spontaneous explosion of company 
employees against being forced into the CIO, and laid the blame on 
"a fratricidal war between two unions." The government examiner, how 
ever, accused the company of deliberately applying a program of 
terrorism. 

"The company gathered and financed," he said in his findings, 
"the most vicious and experienced thugs in its employ who accepted 
an opportunity to indulge sadistic desires in lieu of additional compen 
sation upon any person pointed out to them as a CIO organizer, mem 
ber, advocate or sympathizer to be beaten, whipped, tarred or feathered. 

"In 1937 the company decided the only way to defeat the workers 
in their organization efforts was to sow seeds of distrust of unions and 
fear of reprisals for followers if they joined the union. The NLRB 
examiner knows no other case in which an employer has deliberately 
planned and carried into execution a program of brutality with black 
jacks, loaded hose, cat-o'-nine-tails and of rubber stripping and electric 
light wire." At Dearborn the claim the Ford workers were still free to 
join a union was repeated. 

In April, 1941, the company fired eight men in its Rouge rolling 
mill for alleged union activities within the plant. Other workers took 
up the cry of "Strike! Strike!" and ran through the plant. Shortly 
after midnight on the darkened roads countless cars drew up, as many 
as ten abreast, fender to fender, shut off engines and traffic. A voice 
from a sound truck shouted, "We are striking Ford Motor Company! 
Form your picket line!" 

This was no minor thrust, as the smaller group's checkered 
visit had been four years before. This was IT, the sally in force- -iron 
bars, clubs, solemn pronunciamentos, scuffles, knockdowns, name- 
calling in the press, skirmishes, signs, "Chrysler gives $40 Christmas 
Bonus; Ford Gives Layoffs," appeals to the Governor, to the White 
House, government observers, Civil Liberties Union observers, movie- 
tone, strike editions, city police, state police the whole book. 



388 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

They had come to play rough as the service men or indignant 
"loyal* 5 employees had played in '37. They also had come to get i they 
could what Ford never had been willing to yield some say about their 
pay and working conditions, a word as to the pace o the assembly 
lines, an agreement on some curtailment of plant police activities. 
He was to be forced to bargain since he would not do so voluntarily. 
The unions already had filed with the NLRB a request for a plant 
election. It also had 'given under Michigan law a 30-day strike 
notice. 

Ford was mad and grim. Outside his fences were thousands who 
were as inflexible as he mad themselves and mad for others at Dallas, 
Texas, Kansas City, St. Louis, Edgewater, N. J., and other Rouge 
assembly points. They had come to water his power, strip some of the 
ermine. He had no desire to have his one-man Supreme Court ex 
panded, but here they were with a list of new associate judges. He, 
they said, was a great Samaritan with a blackjack. 

The magazine, Time, quoted Bennett as saying that if the CIO 
won the company would bargain until it froze over "but they won't get 
anything." Bennet said he had been misquoted and that what he said 
was Ford would bargain until hell froze over "but bargaining doesn't 
mean you have to say yes." Michael F. Widman, jr., union organizing 
director, chirped: "GM and Chrysler said they'd bargain and not give. 
Like them, Bennett will bargain and hell give." 

A missing page of the book was the failure of the strike to 
measure up in violence to forecasts. It had been luridly foretold that 
when this one came, it would be a bloody transcript of Homestead and 
Gastonia and the Ludlow massacre rolled into one superpackage, that 
it would be transcendentally brutal and the land would be drenched by 
a crimson tempest, that Ford had a Maginot line and sprinkler pipes 
were loaded with tear gas, that the service department had at hand 
a murderous band of ruffians and was importing Negro strike-breakers 
from St. Louis. He had repeatedly said he would never do business 
with a union. The union was here to see if he was drawing to a belly 
straight. 

The horoscope must have had a thick film of dust. The fore 
bodings came to naught. There were one or two hard but brief fracases, 
but no one bobbed up from the fictional defensive labyrinths under 
.the Rouge grounds. The plant closed down the third day. Philip Murray 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 389 

came in for a conference. A formula was found for reopening. The 
NLRB set a time for an election. The Rouge vote was: 

CIO 51,866 

AFL 20,364 

No 1,958 

Management and union negotiated. The union was granted its 
first union shop and checkoff in the industry. 

The union granted permission to stamp the union label on its 
product, the first time any such privilege had been accorded in the 
industry. At Washington, when the contract was signed, an enormous 
debate developed over where the label should be placed and finally an 
onlooker, who had sweated out the days of battle, disgustedly inserted 
himself into the squabble. 

"It might be possible," he mocked both sides, "to persuade Mr. 
Ford to make a radio standard equipment. The label could go on the 
antennae." 

As part of a behind-the-scenes deal, NLRB complaints and pend 
ing hearings involving Ford were dropped, and three arbitrators, mu 
tually agreed to, sifted a list of 2600 employees claimed to have been 
fired for union activity, weeded out questionable cases, ordered the 
company to rehire 1,400 and reimburse them $923,999.75 for lost pay. 

The elder Ford remained silent about the NLRB election but 
his cohorts took the result without grace. They called it a "so-called" 
election. They declared it a triumph for the Communists, the Governor 
of Michigan and the NLRB. It was said that unless something was 
done about the Wagner Act, industry would be sovietized. The whole 
movement was inspired by greed of certain union leaders for an ad 
ditional million in dues. Discontent among workers had been stirred 
up by scurrilous handbills and falsification by the press. There was 
no admission of the barest possibility, in view of the one-sided vote, that 
neither Mr. Stalin nor Mr. Roosevelt nor anyone else but Mr. Ford 
and the temper of the times were responsible or that 72,000 workmen, 
instead of not knowing what they were doing or of having been 
coerced, merely had decided that between them and Mr. Ford was 
an executive wall they could never get over to make themselves heard 
without the help of someone who knew about such ramparts and had 
the proper scaling ladder. 



390 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

For weeks the orderly plant was a bedlam. A 50-gallon vat was 
filled by commercially minded workers with victory beer and sold 
openly. Crap games flourished. Safety rules forbade smoking cigarettes 
were defiantly lighted. In November, 1945, the company announced 
a four-year record of 773 work stoppages since the first contract terms 
were agreed upon. Three months later the union agreed to inclusion of 
clauses providing a two-week penalty for participation by a UAW 
member in a first wildcat strike, extended layoff or discharge for a 
second offense. For a third, he would be labeled an instigator and be 
fired. 

It is pure speculation why Ford gave up but the most favored 
guesses are: 

1. The company was turning to war work and had a pride in 
efficiently doing its share. Conversion to war goods was difficult enough 
without seething labor unrest. 

2. The NLRB had turned up a considerable amount of evidence 
the company did not care to have aired. Unpleasant headlines over a 
period would be bad public relations. 

3. A realization that some retroactive reimbursement of em 
ployees discriminated against was inevitable. Each day of unsettlement 
increased the bill. 

4. Mr. Ford was sold the idea that he could place himself in a 
preferred position, solidify the shop behind him and embarrass his com 
petitors by going whole hog and granting the union more than it had 
won from General Motors and Chrysler. 

5. He could not stand seeing the plant idle. 

6. He always had a surrender point a point where the seem 
ingly hard tire blew out. 

7. If unionization was a good thing, as the men seemed to 
think, Ford wanted the place unionized. It could not be determined 
without trial. 

8. The law of the land and mood of the day were against him. 
It may have been that the dramatic pandemonium at the Rouge 

plant died a little too soon for a man who loved to play cops and 
robbers. Ford did not read blood and thunder novels but he liked to 
live them. 

He was extremely chary of a New York industrialist who 
dropped in to chat when he was busy on a new model. The Dearborn 



LABOR DEALS ITSELF IN 391 

nabob suspected a fishing expedition. In the usual procedure he would 
ask a trade visitor of importance if he'd care to step out to the laboratory 
and "see what we're doing." In this case he sent out word to fake a 
show get up a display that would reveal no secrets. 

"Well, sir/' he said cannily in telling about it afterwards, "we 
went out into the shop but he was wise right away. He saw he wasn't 
getting the real thing and that we were on to him, and finally he 
said, 'Well, Mr. Ford, I guess I'll have to run along of course, I'm really 
a financial man and all this is out of my line.' " Ford wasn't fooled; no, 
sir. He said later, "He knew we had rigged things up and knew exactly 
what he was up to going to steal our stuff if we had anything new*" 

A newsman was present in the plant protection office one morn 
ing with Ford when a worried man in research telephoned. He said 
he was a little suspicious of a fellow put to work a few days before. 
The new man was just too good. Bennett told the boss and the motor- 
maker had an idea. 

"Here's what you do put that fellow to work on some of those 
perpetual motion drawings," Ford plotted. "See if he can make head 
or tail of them. If he's so smart he'll soon know we're onto him." 

The blueprints referred to were a decade's accumulation. Men 
who thought they had stumbled on the secret of perpetual motion were 
constantly sending Ford their prescriptions. 

The newsman recalled the incident a couple of weeks later and 
asked Ford for the sequel. 

"He was a spy from another company all right," Ford responded. 
He chuckled over what had really happened, "He wrestled with those 
crank drawings for a few days and then he said, 'Well, I see I'm not 
fooling you as to who I am,' and he got out." 

At that point you had to make your mind up whether what 
you were hearing was sheer guff and strictly E. Phillips Oppenheim, 
born in a head that delighted in plot and counter-plot, or a true report 
of expected trade villainy. 

Edsel Ford and Walter Reuther, UAW chieftain, sat on govern 
ment war boards together and became friendly but Reuther never met 
the senior Ford until an inspection trip to the Willow Run bomber 
plant a few months after the union contract was signed. Edsel asked 
him i he would like to meet his father. Walter said he would, very 
much. 



392 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

The senior Ford delighted in dead-pan joking. It was often im 
possible to tell when he was in earnest. Col. Charles Lindbergh had 
found that out now Reuther did. When the motormaker was eighty 
he wanted a five-cylinder engine and put it up to his "dream" depart 
ment a room of experimental engineers who were encouraged to play 
with hallucinations, since nearly everything man has evolved has come 
from scrambled pieces that some one man finally fitted together. 

The idea was not commercially practical for automobile use 
without balancing devices of prohibitive cost, his experimenters thought. 
The sales department would be cold to it s'nce the p^.blic had been 
sold on sixes and eights. Make it anyway! The engine was delivered 
in due time to the dynameter for testing, and Ford, Lindbergh and 
an engineer who had worked on it stood by. The engine was revved 
up to 4500 rpm and the high frequency had about the same effect on 
the spectators as a blow on the funny-bone. Then it was shut off. 

"Isn't that the smoothest thing you ever heard?'' Ford said to 
his companions. They had no answer for him. He was probably joking 
but no one could tell. Work on the five-cylinder motor was one of the 
first experiments dropped after Ford's death. 

The senior Ford and Reuther chatted about plane-making for 
a few moments after a handshake. Nine years before the labor spokes 
man had been bounced from the Ford plant, where he was working 
at $1.10 an hour as a tool and die leader, for openly holding an or 
ganizational meeting, and five years before, abo it to pass out union 
pamphlets, he had been inhospitably booted from a plant overpass. 

"You know, Mr. Reuther," the senior Ford finally said, "it was 
one of the most sensible things Harry Beanett ever did when he got 
the UAW into this plant." 

"Well, I think so but I didn't think you did, Mr. Ford," smiled 
Reuther. "How do you figure it?" 

Ford pursed his lips. "Well," he said, "you've been fighting 
General Motors and the Wall Street crowd. Now you're in here and 
we've given you a union shop and more than you got out of theta. 
That puts you on our side, doesn't it? We can fight General Motors 
and Wall Street together, eh?" 

Reuther said it was an interesting theory. He still doesn't know 
if Ford was serious or having his fun* 



A tired old man dies at 83, 
the age he said hed settle for 
$5 a day had not evoked 
Utopia; did anyone think 
nuclear fission -would? 



CHAPTER XXIV 
THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 



AD THEN the golden bowl was broken/A cerebral hemor 
rhage ended the success story of the unconventional archi 
tect of an industrial revolution in a cold room lit by oil 
lamp and candle. Flood waters o the River Rouge had cut 
off electric power and telephone, and the room in which he died was not 
unlike in inconvenience the one in which he was born by a midwife's 
ministrations in the third year of the Civil War. A chauffeur had to go 
to the plant to get through to a doctor, but before medical help arrived, 
Henry Ford, fairy-tale American, was dead. 

He had lived, strangely enough, the exact number of years he 
wanted. When he was unable to attend a reunion in 1940 of those who 
were left who went with him to Europe on his peace argosy in 1915, 
the hope was expressed that he would be able to be present on the 
golden anniversary. 

"Why, I'd be 102 then, wouldn't I?" he calculated. "I won't live 
that long." He said he'd settle for eighty-three. 

So eighty-three it was. He was born July 30, 1863, and died April 
7, 1946, after a dazzling and unflagging performance. With 34,000,000 
people to choose from in the United States the year of his arrival, Fate 
singled him out, kissed him on the cheek, and said, "Son, step into my 
office!" He made almost as many motor-propelled vehicles as there were 
Americans when he was born, and when he died one of every seven 
persons in the United States was employed in the motor car industry 
and allied businesses.-*^* 



393 



394 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

If William and Mary Ford, bride of a year, had time that morn 
ing in 1863 for their newspaper, they found Madame Sparr, soi-disant 
doctress, promising to cure cancer clairvoyantly in 48 hours; a dramatic 
critic, smitten by a lady singing at a local theater blubbering in print, 
"Oh, were those eyes in Heaven they would through the airy regions 
stream so bright that birds would sing and think it was the morn"; Col. 
John Morgan and twenty of his raiders were locked safely in an Ohio 
penitentiary, and lightning which struck a school was reported as "play 
ing the dickens with the girls' hoops." 

William Makepeace Thackeray died in London during the year. 
C. Aubrey Smith and John Bunny of the movies, Sir Austen Chamber 
lain and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers were born. It was 
the year of the Emancipation Proclamation and Stonewall Jackson's 
accidental death by the muskets of his own men. Erie was $140 a share, 
the Union consisted of 35 states, dawn was coming up on the era of 
industrial capitalism and in a crib in a Michigan farmhouse dozed its 
classic exponent. Farmer Ford and his wife noted the date in the family 
Bible and had their separate dreams for him, but not one measured up 
to the ultimate in magic he was to perform as the most controversial 
figure in industrial history. 

Longfellow published the Tales of a Wayside Inn the boy in the 
cradle bought the Inn sixty years later and added a sheen the original 
probably never knew. Jacob Grimm died in Germany the eight-pound 
boy in Dearborn would live a fairy story superior to any he wrote. 
Gordon took Soochow, a French gravel-pit yielded the Abbeville jaw, 
and the New York Times published police news under the restrained 
head, "The Metropolitan Police Their Services During the Past 
Week." 

The farmer's son of 1863 would build the greatest single concen 
tration of wealth in the world on a foundation of ideas which at the turn 
of the century were regarded as crazy. Men would grow glib in the use 
of such words as carburetor and fuel pump and fan belt. He would 
pay no attention to Beadle's Pocket Library or Eliot's five-foot shelf 
but would do and dare, work and win, without them* He would run 
after a will-o'-the-wisp and catch up with it. 

He became a world figure. He helped men to conquer space, 
remade transport, and billowing clouds of persuasive publicity so im 
planted the idea of his primacy that one came near to forgetting other 
sculptors who contributed vital tidbits to the reshaping between Gettys- 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 395 

burg and panic in Hiroshima. Such nowaday fixtures as telegraph, tele 
phone, incandescent light, lawnmower, talking machine, typewriter^ 
fountain pen, electric trolley, torpedo, dynamite, rayon, linotype, cream 
separator and adding machine had not been born when he was, but 
they were before he was 25. Other men were refining the world, also. 
Before Ford Motor Company produced a single car, Dunlop stumbled 
upon the pneumatic tire, Welsbach produced the gas mantle, Roentgen 
the X-ray and Lake the submarine. 

The mythmakers were to make him all white or black. Critics 
dissected him and told with aplomb what he was "really" like and what 
he "really" believed. He was called the billionaire Utopian, the, Great 
Humanitarian, the Mechanical Wizard. He was given statuettes, 
plaques, honorary degrees and ebullient citations enough to fill a thou 
sand walls, Man who had once been cheered to travel by floating log, 
graduated to a steering wheel. Ford made Caspar Milquetoast into a 
lot of fellows bawling out the car window, "Get the hell over to your 
own side of the road, Bud!" 

One group proved his system incomparable and Ford a supreme 
lesson in what faith and enterprise and willing hands would do. He 
was the radio beam other men rode, the Horatio Alger romance in 
elegant color. They said his greatness was inseparable from his willing 
ness to see new things. One declared that if it were possible to preserve 
alive for the interest of history one man from each century and country 
the one who represented not necessarily the best or wisest but the one 
who typified most thoroughly the hopes, crudities, background and 
achievements of his place no one could better stand for his time and 
the U.S. than Henry Ford. 

But he was reviled as well as lauded. Ah, they said, he was an 
ignorant idealist and anarchist, a slave-driver bossing a treadmill no 
different from Cubitt's except in bigness. The machine was making 
artisans obsolete. They were becoming hostlers to rods and bolts and 
moving conveyors. He had fixed his mind too hard on one idea after 
another to understand the proper relationship of all things. It was lack 
of the General Idea of life, said another, that made him seem bleak 
and erratic when he was only puzzled. 

A monomania consumed him a love of machines. He had an 
instinctive affinity for them. A moving part fascinated him. When boys 
of his age were usually pushing little girls in blue hair-ribbons into 
snowbanks or shining at shinny, he fixed watches. He walked nine 



396 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

miles to his first job in a machine shop at $2.50 a week. Long before 
he contrived his automobile engine he got kicked out of a lot of shops 
for just standing around, uninvited, looking to see what was new he 
ought to know. In later years he claimed he could tell in what country 
a machine was made by the sound of it. 

He started to put down his vague ideas of a combustion engine 
in 1889 on the back of a sheet of music his wife let him have (and 
Hitler was born at Braunau). His first engine clicked four years later, 
based partially on a thought he got in watching water being pumped 
to a rooftop at the Chicago World's Fair to fight a fire. (The wife of 
the German consul-general to Haiti bore a child they christened 
Hermann Wilhelm Goring.) Ford rode out in his first car in 1896, and 
when he drove to his birthplace an ashamed father and the neighbors 
looked grimly at Henry as if he had done something disreputable. 
(Guglielmo Marconi was in London at the time taking out the first 
patent ever granted for wireless telegraph based on use of electric 
waves.) 

The wiry, determined little man from Dearborn made two false 
starts before he got under way. The first stockholders threw in the 
sponge after putting in more money than they thought they would 
have to. The second time a company terminated his contract before the 
end of the year for which it provided, the directors having in mind one 
kind of car and he another. 

He began manufacturing in 1903 and struck gold five years later. 
He made a car he called the Model T and it put him into possession 
of so much money he could afford to speak of gold from then on as 
something second-rate and meaningless, and of so much fame and 
authority that if he recited London Bridge is Falling Down there were 
those who made out it was a pivotal event. Beside the River Rouge he 
carved a principality. He transfigured some marshy flat-land by build 
ing a mastodonic plant beside which the Wonderland of Alice was 
Mauch Chunk, Pa. It was his art gallery and opera house, high school 
and university, his Bible and betrothed. Work was his religion, experi 
ment and efficiency an obsession. 



What was so magical about this tin Pegasus, object of wheeze 
and jingle in which the world once rode and on which the maker 
waxed richer than any man before him? A traveler in Georgia reported 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 397 

seeing an abject half in and half out of familiar wrappings being un 
sealed in 1945 in front of a barn. It was a new shiny Model T, and the 
tourist, being from Detroit, stopped. The explanation: "It's the last of 
three I bought when Ford stopped making them. Used two and kept 
the other in the barn in the same paper it was shipped in." The farmer 
slapped the radiator as he might a prized but unruly heifer. "Neverll 
get as good a car again," he said with positivism, "or one I'll get as 
much out of." The Model T won such fealty for its manufacturer. 

World production of the model in nineteen years at the Highland 
Park and River Rouge plants, scattered assembly plants in the United 
States and in thirty foreign operations plants either owned by Ford 
or partially owned through stock interests was exactly 15,456,868. It 
sold for as high as $900 and as low as $265. 

It was introduced at the Chicago Automobile Show in Decem 
ber, 1907, and went into production immediately. It became the nation's 
workhorse. It was familiar from Saskatchewan to Sydney, Cape Town 
to the Place de 1'Opera. Through it, men who never heard of Lincoln 
knew of Ford. Men crossed oceans to toil in his plant, get a nest-egg 
and go home to preside in distant villages as the only skilled mechanics 
on the premises. 

We were prowling after dark in the Haitian bush in search of 
voodoo when our car balked. We had forded two streams tumbling 
with recent heavy rains and were at a turbulent third. The native 
driver disappeared. He emerged shortly from a thatched hut, barely 
visible in the black island night, dragging another native of the same 
complexion as the night itself who raised the hood and went to work 
as if he knew exactly what he was doing. 

"Ford worker," said the driver, a trace of pride in his voice. "He 
was in Detroit three years." 

Whatever was wrong, the repairman found it, and at the end 
flipped his hand to say all was well again and we could safely tackle 
the freshet ahead. 

On the Moselle one summer the village handyman also proved 
an ex-Ford worker. GI's were to be there ten years later, but then the 
only harbinger of what was to come were strutting villagers lifting 
arms in Nazi greetings. The handyman appeared indifferent to the 
saluting lodge members he wanted to know instead how things were 
going at Dearborn with Herr Ford. 

Other men had made gasoline engines and installed them *n a 



398 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

variety of rigs but most of them expired in the fierce battle for sur 
vival. Ford grew stronger with each stride. He doubled his workers* 
wages when there was no competitive necessity and cut the price of the 
product when he could have gotten more. If the assembly-line was a 
Tyrian galley, as some men said, many went back to the oar-locks, 
year after year, apparently content. 

The little man, who was in a class by himself in fortune, became 
the most advertised Croesus of his day and he was largely unenvied 
because it was regarded as clean money, free of stock-jobbing and illicit 
shenanigans and pompous use. No two-cars-to-a-garage nonsense 
one apiece to a family was good enough for him and the longer they 
lasted on the road the more pleased he was. 

In his drive to lower the price he was smart at trimming corners. 
His foremen were delighted when they made a machine which would 
finish the bas,e of a motor block in one-third the previous time but he 
mocked it and got an idea. 

"Why have we been doing that at all?" he challenged them. "The 
underside of the block doesn't need finishing!" He threw out the whole 
operation as unnecessary. 

The Model T swarmed over the land. It was virtually a stripped 
car. If doodads were wanted he did not supply them. He provided trans 
portation, and gimcracks were not necessary to get over the ground. 
For years he did not add an accessory he did not have to, and the policy 
enabled him to make a low retail price as against a manufacturer who 
put on all the gadgets and had to establish a higher price to get his 
money back. 

The car was light and therefore did not use as much gas and 
oil as heavier vehicles. It was known as a utility car because of the 
various uses to which it could be put. Being light, it did not require 
good roads as did weightier makes. Parts were standard. Practically 
the same cam and crankshaft were on the car when manufacture ceased 
as when the first Model T rolled out. The parts business in 1913 
amounted to $800,000; six years later it was $80,000,000. 

At conventions, dealers used to get up on the floor and say, "We 
understand the Ford car is thrown together," Parts had to be properly 
machined so they could be thrown together. There was no vise in the 
place if a part did not fit it was scrapped. 

From a manufacturing standpoint there was no need to toss out 
a slew of machines annually, and install new ones since the car remained 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 399 

basically the same. Special machines could be set up, built especially to 
do certain things. It was said, too, that seventy per cent of the workers 
could be taught the operations required in less than two days and they 
did not have to read, write or speak English. 

From a selling standpoint there were numerous advantages. The 
man who came into a salesroom did not have to make a choice. There 
was only the one model on sale. There could be no obsolescence. Some 
banks would loan money against Ford cars when they were more 
reluctant in the case of a company constantly shifting models. 

From the buyers' standpoint, no car was close to the Model T 
in price, and it was considered simple to operate and repair. 

Ford was master of the fixed idea and he allowed no one to divert 
him. When he began making T's, Ford Motor Company's surplus bal 
ance was $2,156,625; nineteen years later when he came with distaste 
to the conclusion that the idea of one model had been wrung dry and 
the last Model T off the line became a museum-piece, the balance was 
roundly $673,000,000. 



The aromatic horse-barn disappeared. The deep rutted road was 
rolled and widened and surfaced and gave way to the four-lane high 
way. Garage replaced woodshed and wheel-barrow slunk off before the 
self-dumping truck. Ford pulled the oceans closer together. 

The press was filled with his mixed thoughts: Surplus never 
could be evil . . . war was due to international financiers and too many 
diplomats . . . those who believed in high taxes should be run out of 
office . . . there would be no wars if kings and presidents and some 
employers were sent to the trenches . . . the labor movement was a plot 
of rivals to undo him . . . virtue and vision resided largely in the corn 
stalks almost all great men were farmboys. 

He liked old machines and old furniture, said you couldn't teli 
much about either until they were old and affronted antiquarians by 
taking fine pieces, their wood mellowed by time, and refinishing them 
until the experts could see their petrified faces in them. He was in the 
desirable position of being able to tell anyone to go to hellif there 
were answering barbs they glanced off his assurance. He yipped for 
standardization and in his own life was a non-conformist. He said 
books mussed up his mind and collaborated in three about himself. 
He said absurd things and perceptive things ^nd he represented 



400 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

thousands of inarticulate Americans who thought as he did and to 
whom nobody paid any attention. In him they saw themselves, with a 
bit of luck. What he said often was what they thought. 

Diagnosticians were slightly addled by the fact that he did not 
square with their notions as to how a man with a billion should act. 
He was considered a queer duck because he said history was bunk, 
preferred a photograph to a Whistler, ran away from the farm as a 
boy because he did not like it and flew back later, as fast as his legs 
would carry him, to reconstruct the homestead just as he remembered 
it down to the last gravy-boat. 

A born adventurer, he constantly rocked the boat, going his way 
undaunted by any suggestion that what he was doing or planning to 
do violated some basic principle. He conceded nothing to be funda 
mental until he tested it for himself and, doing this, found he could 
do many things that couldn't be done. 

He banged away sharply, and often intemperately, at bankers 
and economists, Jews and the New Deal, the money system and man's 
unfortunate unwillingness to love work as he did, but he went on 
changing the world, too, putting it on rubber tires, making it mobile 
as never before, turning manufacturing into a machine operation, 
and applying the assembly line principle to production on a scale 
unmatched by any other entrepreneur. He became the venerated drum- 
beater of a cult. His methods were a religion. Where man, without 
them, had made a unit an hour, now he could make a hundred or a 
thousand under new astonishing techniques. He bobbled some jumps 
but seemed to land right side up, firmly rooted in the stirrups. If he 
miscalculated, it seldom got into the publicity. 

He went ahead transforming prairie into village, village into 
town, town into city, and then despised what he had created and said 
the days of the unlovely city were numbered. A British journalist, after 
watching the assembly line in its obstetrical labors, reported to his 
English readers that it would not be surprising if the private home 
was eventually abolished in the United States in favor of a residential 
car "in which Americans will be born, live, wed and die." 



He thought patents choked competition and hamstrung progress, 
and executives clipped anything supporting the view and made sure 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 401 

he saw it. It was an attitude that possibly developed in his fight over 
the Selden patent years before, but he seldom would buy one until 
it was adjudicated to the last ditch. Some said it was a giant's way of 
squeezing an inventor who might be in no position to fight back; 
others declared it originated in Ford's distrust of patent claims and a 
belief that many existing patents are based on old discoveries. 

Inventions, he insisted, were often matters of long evolution. He 
patented one part for the Model T only to find that a piano-tuner had 
done the same thing eighty years before. He patented a magneto de 
vice then discovered that Michael Faraday had produced one like it. 
He took out a patent on a universal joint inside a ball-and-socket joint 
and later came upon the same arrangement on a forty-year-old steam 
engine. 

"I'm not so sure there's a new thing on a Ford car despite our 
hundreds of patents," he once told me. 

If he had been given the plans for the first Model A_a^ the time 
he made his first car in 1896, he said he couldn't have made it. The art 
of manufacturing had not developed far enough and the right mate 
rials were not available. Carrying the idea further, he said if he had the 
plans of the Model T, begun in 1908, when he began manufacturing 
in 1903, he could not have built it for the same reason. 

"A lot of things on cars were tried years ago and didn't work," 
the lecture on patents went, "but they could be made to work now. 
Something that was on the car in 1915, for example, and was unsuc 
cessful, now is feasible because of new alloys or better manufacturing 
methods." 

A Detroit manufacturer of shock absorbers and a patented 
lubricating system paid a good price to a Moline, Ind,, inventor for a 
patented automobile shackle and imagined he had a good thing. It was 
installed experimentally on a number of Fords and reports from the 
engineering department were encouraging. He met Ford at a party 
and was asked to drop in at Dearborn for a talk. He felt happy 
about it. 

Ford said, "I want to save you some money." 

What was meant wasn't quite clear, but the smaller manufac 
turer chose to think it encouraging. Ford might be going to bid for the 
shackle patent. He went to see the motormaker next day. 

The vast Ford collection of antiques was in the making but he 



402 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

had no idea at the time what he was going to do with them and much 
of the accumulating old-time machinery was piled outdoors. It could 
have been mistaken for a junk pile when he led his visitor out to it. 

"I get many wonderful ideas out of old machinery/' he confided 
on the way. "I'm never surprised to find something we think new is 
pretty old." Ford said the other man would be astonished at the number 
of modern manufacturing patents issued on little gadgets that actually 
were in use a generation or more ago. "Take those antique steam- 
fittings from pipes used in Michigan mines! With a little imagination 
they could be motor car valves, eh?" He asked the guest to name 
another machine alongside. 

"It's an old scale, isn't it?" The small manufacturer looked closer. 

"To weigh tanbark," Ford nodded. "Remember how heavy 
trucks used to drive on for weighing? A heavy load would have broken 
the platform so it was hung on shackles." He pointed out the ancient 
shackles. "See what I mean," he said. The shackles were the same type 
which the caller's recently purchased patent was presumed to cover 
and the scale equipped with them bore the year date 1860. 

Ford patted the visitor's shoulder sympathetically. "You thought 
you had something because the government granted your inventor a 
recent patent. I asked you here to show you the shackle was discovered 
by another man more than sixty years ago. It isn't really patentable." 

Ford talked freely but seldom listened, or if he listened often did 
not seem to hear. He would be at your side, going through the gestures 
of sociability, and be a thousand miles away. 

He said he wouldn't give a nickel for any painting, but engaged 
an artist to re-create on canvas the scene when his first engine was born. 
He made a sandwich of weeds but decided, after one bite, that he had 
made a mistake; declared that what the U.S. needed was water with 
a kick in it, tried to make fertilizer of tree stumps which cost him 
$1,000 to uproot in some cases, and when his son said, "I'll bet that's 
a profitable operation," looked stony-eyed at such skepticism. 

He mixed bosh with cogency. The depression was wholesome 
because it taught Americans a needed lesson. Most people wouldn't 
work unless you caught and made them. He had the idea, incidentally, 
of spending oneself into prosperity long before it became a New Deal 
tenet. One year his advertising men submitted a slogan, "Buy a Ford 
SAVE the Difference," He changed a word, making it, "Buy a Ford 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 403 

SPEND the Difference." Prosperity lay in spending, not saving; in the 
velocity of money, not in its idleness. 

Marry young. A good mother-in-law is important but a good 
father-in-law does not matter. Those who wait and marry calculatingly 
do not fare so well. Don't drink! Alcohol has better uses. Women who 
wear short skirts will come to no good end. Don't smoke! Hard work 
is the answer to most problems. 

He could be vindictive, but he was deeply sorry in one case. 
Beaten in a Senatorial contest by Truman H. Newberry, wealthy 
Detroiter, he was successful in having his victorious opponent indicted 
with 133 Republican party leaders on a charge of criminal conspiracy 
with intent to violate the Corrupt Practices Act. The Newberrys and 
Fords had visited at each other's homes, had been friends of twenty 
years' standing, and the junior Ford and one of Newberry J s sons were 
intimate friends. 

A Federal judge sentenced some dozen of the defendants to 
Leavenworth but on appeal the United States Supreme Court declared 
the statute unconstitutional. 

The conviction was set aside. Newberry was seated but resigned 
shortly. 

Nine years later Ford sought out his opponent, apologized and 
declared his action had been due to bad advice and erroneous informa 
tion. When the overtures were made through a mutual friend New- 
berry laid down only two conditions : The meeting was to take place 
in his office or home and there was to be no publicity. The motormaker 
agreed and walked into the Newberry office the day before Christmas, 
1927. It was the first time, he said, he had been above the ground floor 
of a modern office building. The apology was extended and accepted; 
the two talked for a half hour and parted with an exchange of wishes 
for a merry Christmas. 



Ford did not belong to the Automobile Manufacturers' Associa 
tion. The National Chamber of Commerce did not speak for him. He 
was not a joiner. He did not sit in with the business oligarchy. A man 
of inexplicable moods, he gave irregularly to the Detroit Community 
Fund. Frequently at campaign time the steering committee, shrinking 
at the memory of previous rejections and at the prospect of approaching 



404 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

him again, would suggest to the cooperative Edsel that he intervene. 
Sometimes the son would talk to his father; sometimes, if he did not 
give, the son would increase his own subscription to offset his father's 
refusal; again he might say, "Father is in such a state at the moment 
that Fd be afraid to tackle him. There is no telling what he would do." 

Yet the senior Ford did not object to his radio spokesman pro 
moting the cause and urging national backing for the 400 chests of the 
country, and soon Cameron would be saying, "Shall we wait for Provi 
dence or be Providence?" or "The glory of the modern community 
chest work is that it does more than a bucket of water to a fire; it 
makes the structure fireproof against future mishap." Despite the im- 
portunation, Ford usually elected to be his own almoner. He had the 
money and time and staff. Once when publicly solicited in a New York 
theater after Al Jolson called attention to his being in the house, Ford 
rose and stomped out angrily. 

His mail, two-thirds begging, once ran 8,000 communications a 
week. Read these verses! Help their author. Examine this invention! 
Let me have $3,000,000 to buy a silver mine, four dollars for an unpaid 
grocery bill. Gimme, gimme, gimme! A wheel chair. A pair of crutches. 
Fare to a dry climate, passage to America, a ticket to romantic places. 
European youth bombarded him for backing in university study. 
Thousands of associations and clubs and missionaries wrote for free 
cars. One woman said it would be very nice" if he would lend her a 
thousand dollars. He need not send it but if he would just keep on 
investing it until it reached $100,000, he could then recapture the 
original thousand and mail her the balance. A count one year showed 
that $400,000,000 would have been required to do all the letter writers 
asked. 

Nevertheless, he could be wetly sentimental. He found work for 
drug addicts and prison parolees and had hundreds of old employees 
around the place who were untouchable even when they were unpro 
ductive. He would place at the disposal of sick people he hardly knew 
the facilities of his hospital without charge and was a push-over for 
any newspaper sob story. He was not reached so much by distress in 
the mass as he was by a single misfortune. Volume misery seemed 
harder for him to grasp or to do anything about, but an evicted family, 
pictured in its woe on the sidewalk and the photo-page, was likely to 
be dumfounded by the ensuing largess if Ford happened to pick up 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

his paper that morning and notice its dilemma. One family of eight 
was moved with celerity into a house specially painted and papered 
and fenced with pickets in five hours. He set an army to decorating 
on that rush job. 

A friend who lived at a Ford inn began to lose his sight and 
Ford was so distracted he dropped in daily to chat, but he felt he had 
to offer some excuse for calling so often. The daily visits might in 
tensify his friend's worry, otherwise, so he used to say he was there 
to get a shave or haircut and when the two were talked out the sick 
man would escort Ford to the barber-shop and see him into the chair. 
Unprotestingly the motormaker got a hundred unnecessary shaves and 
surplus haircuts so there would be no suspicion that what really 
brought him to the tavern so regularly was his friend's dimming vision. 

A mechanic fitting some boilers for the Detroit Illuminating 
Company in the 90*5 had six feet of tubing left over when his job was 
done and he said to the company engineer, "Can you use this stuff, 
Ford; if you can I'll leave it?" 

In the 2o's he got to thinking of that fellow who had given him 
the tubing which went into the first Ford cylinder. Dillon, wasn't it? 
He had been with a Buffalo company. Find him! A couple of old- 
timers thought Dillon was dead but that a daughter lived in a small 
town in Pennsylvania. The village police chief was chatting with the 
postmaster when the Ford inquiry arrived. Neither could remember 
any Dillon. 

"Hold on, now," said the chief, "wasn't that the name of Mrs. 
Collins before she married?" 

Mrs. Collins was invited to Dearborn. She and Ford lunched 
together, tramped through the plant and museum, were photographed 
and she stayed over for an old-fashioned dance in the evening as the belle 
of honor. Next day she motored home in a new automobile in appre 
ciation of the six-foot piece of tubing her father kindly left behind 
thirty years before. 



He was sure that airplanes, radio and automobiles existed in 
civilizations so ancient that historians had no record of them. The globe, 
he argued, had been inhabited by intelligent peoples millions of times. 
He called history bunk, and captivated by the inches of space the state- 



4 o6 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

ment got, repeated it in later years and added an extra flounce by 
branding it "bunkety-bunk." 

It was summer of 1919. The Chicago Tribune editorially had 
called him an "ignorant idealist" and "anarchist," and Ford sued for a 
million dollars. The litigation engaged the finesse and theatricalism of 
seventeen lawyers, cost the parties concerned $1,400,000 and the judg 
ment was six cents in Ford's favor, an award each side translated as a 
victory. 

This particular morning the Tribune was bent on trying to prove 
the soundness of its name-calling. The man on the stand did not look 
to be damaged a million dollars worth but did seem baffled. He knew 
all about brazing furnaces, slides and rollways, core-bonds and burring 
machines, valves and monorails, but the man talking coldly in front 
of him was not interested in what Ford knew of these matters, for this 
would have proved Ford a supremely intelligent man, within particular 
boundaries, and Tribune 'counsel was trying to show he was a knuckle- 
head. 

"You know of Benedict Arnold, Mr. Ford?" "He was a writer, 
wasn't he?" "Ever read any of his writings?" "Don't believe I have." 
"Are you not aware that the action of Arnold constituted one of the 
first incidents of treason in American history?" "I don't remember." 

Did the witness know of a revolution in the United States? "I 
understand there was one in 1812." (The press seats emptied in a race 
for telephones.) "Any other time, Mr. Ford?" The witness said he did 
not know of any. "Don't you know this country was born of a revolu 
tion in 1776 and that there wasn't any revolution in 1812?" Ford said 
he didn't know hadn't paid much attention to it. 

The questioning veered. "Men like Pershing are murderers is 
that your idea, Mr. Ford?" 

"I guess the general will admit committing many a murder. 
Killing anyone is murder." 

"How about Ulysses S. Grant?" 

"Y^s, I think he said war was murder." 

The lawyer said, "I think you are wrong there, Mr. Ford. General 
Sherman said war was hell but neither he nor Grant said it was murder 
that I ever heard of." 

* I think General Sherman said it was murder," said Ford, con 
fidently. 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 407 

In a book the motormaker had said that advice of militarists on 
the need of a vast army and navy was about the same as the advice 
of a group of gamblers would be in the framing of civil laws "the only 
difference is that the military man gambles with human lives and pleads 
for national honor when he means personal glorification or blood 
money." 

"You put the soldier below the professional gambler, Mr. Ford?'* 

"Yes. One gambles with lives. The gambler does not do any 
harm." 

"You prefer the professional gambler to the soldier?" 
, Ford said he thought he did. 

In an anti-preparedness advertisement use had been made of the 
word "ballyhoo." He was asked for a definition. 

"A blackguard, I guess," ventured the witness. 

His counsel suggested "barker." Tribune counsel snorted, "A 
shouter to sell his wares." 

Ford, helpfully: "At a peanut stand or something? There's a lot 
of blackguarding there." 

Tribune counsel, curtly: "I don't know. I am not in that busi 
ness!" 

He was questioned about a preparedness speech delivered by the 
late Henry A. Wise Wood, inventor and writer, prior to World War I 
and a subsequent talk Ford had with Wood at Dearborn in which Ford 
was quoted as saying that perhaps when the war was over the American 
flags over his plant would come down never to go up again. He might 
put up an international flag. 

"Mr. Wise was a gentleman, wasn't he?" 

"He did not look free." 

"What was there about him? Did he look like a slave?" 

"A slave, yes a slave to the financiers. I judge so from the 
things he said." 

"What did he say?" 

"I don't remember now," said Ford, "but I think he was trying 
to trap me into saying things." 

The examination tacked anew. This was to be the capsheaf. It 
was led up to with bogus gentleness since the question might boom 
erang. 

"Mr. Ford," said the Tribune attorney, "I have some hesitation 



408 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

about the question I am about to ask but in justice to you I will put it/* 
He said the impression had been created that Ford could not read 
because of his refusal to read any of the printed material handed to him 
at various times in court. "Do you want to leave it that way?" 

"Yes, you can leave it that way," Ford said, and added: 

"I am not a fast reader. I have hay fever and Fd make a botch 
of it." 

"Are you willing," the examiner persisted, "to have that impres 
sion left?" 

"No, but I'm not a fast reader." 

"You can read?" 

"I can read." 

"Do you want to try it?" 

"No!" Ford didn't raise his voice. 

"You would rather leave it that way?" 

"I would rather leave that impression," the galled motormaker 
said stiffly. 

Counsel rubbed his hands slowly. Reporters disappeared again 
into telephone booths. The witness smiled upon the jury and the farmer 
jury smiled genially back. Out the windows they could see the Fords 
rolling north and south on U.S. 25, bumper to bumper, and they knew 
who made them. Jurors Nos. 3 and 7 never had heard of Benedict 
Arnold either and wondered if it made them anarchists. 



Ford found fault with the American school system and intro 
duced his own. He did not think education should begin with words 
and end with words. Man risked, thereby, becoming a parrot. He 
thought too many adolescents and their parents had their eyes on white 
shirts, shiny desks and gold letters on the door and that if they con 
tinued to center on such things, they would be poor prospects to do 
the world's work. 

As the elder Morgan delighted in reference to himself as the 
American Lorenzo, Ford tired in late years of being called the Great 
Industrialist and preferred a good word for his work in education. He 
launched a school for apprentices in 1915 when he heard a group of 
employees was paying one of its number for instructions in shop 
mathematics at his home after working hours. He opened a trade 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 409 

school for boys 12 to 15 the next year, which probably reflected Ford's 
own table of values. It emphasized Safety, Orderliness, Accuracy and 
the Time Element in that order. 

The school began with six pupils and wound up with 1,500 
students, 600 acres and 125 full-time instructors. He preached that there 
was no system of government or scheme of life which would relieve 
youth of doing its own tasks. The master of the machine was sure that 
handiwork would remain basic. However much critics talked of autom 
atons of the assembly line and spoke slightingly of the need of skill 
required, Ford was positive that changing conditions of manufacture, 
mass production, and closer limits of measurement and increasing im 
portance of the time factor intensified the need for training. 

He opened a third school, for high school boys, in 1936. He 
developed others in Greenfield Village, three in Sudbury, Mass., two 
in England, others in Brazil and Georgia. A school official once com 
plained it was illogical for him to finance the industrial training of such 
an army and permit business rivals to snap up its graduates. 

"They're good mechanics, aren't they?" he retorted. "Let them 
work where they want to." 

Girls were taught not only academic subjects but how to keep 
house, plan meals, shop and meet guests. On top of academic subjects 
for boys Ford piled training in the skills of the machine shop and 
sank two million dollars in machinery to implement the spoken word. 
At Greenfield enrollees learned of rocks and trees, clouds and flowers, 
and there was even a class to encourage good conversation and manners. 
Many children were registered at birth for later entrance. 

Not long after the trade school opened he asked for the number 
enrolled and was told 400, with 4,000 waiting. 

"Reverse it!" he ordered. 

He was never able to bring it off. When enrollment reached 2,800, 
the waiting list was 15,000. To him it proved that boys still wished 
to make things. Parents were wrong in assuming that diplomas and 
degrees would insure success. The youngsters had to be taught in such 
a way, he said, that when they graduated they would be in demand. 
It was not enough if the boy or girl could only say he or she was a 
graduate of a certain university. 

When anyone said differently it surprised him as much as Billy 
Sunday did. In behalf of God and temperance, Sunday, a retired base- 



4io THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

ball player, slid across stages sown to sawdust several decades ago and 
unexplainably by his paroxysms won converts and enriched the Ameri 
can language. Conversion by the Sunday recipe came to be known as 
"hitting the sawdust trail." The athletics also were referred to as 
"muscular Christianity." 

On a visit to Detroit he had an audience with Ford and in a 
rapturous private showing Mr. Sunday climaxed an appeal for funds 
by leaving his feet and sliding magnificently the length of the Ford 
private office. Either bowled over by the thud of thighs or possibly to 
avert an encore with spikes, the motormaker grabbed money from 
under his inkwell and pressed it on the evangelist before he fully got 
himself in hand. 



The adventure was about over. Ford was no longer at concert 
pitch. He was brought home on a stretcher in mid-war from Georgia 
and he never rallied wholly after that, although it was said there v^as 
nothing wrong organically. But newsmen did not see much of him 
thereafter. Only infrequently was he in the headlines a tribute by his 
home town, a ceremonial honoring pioneers of the industry on the 
fiftieth anniversary of the time when first his friend Charles B. King 
in 1896 and then he, three months later, drove their first cars on the 
streets of Detroit. He resisted all reminders that it was late and to 
remember his rest and stayed until midnight, chinning exuberantly 
with men like him who were present when hill-climbing was a feat 
and a car was a back number without a wicker basket for the um 
brellas. 

He warmed himself in the sun of the back veranda overlooking 
the River Rouge and occasionally warmed others by descending un 
announced on the plant, almost as brisk as ever, and going on a rampage 
in the old commanding way. He had withdrawn so definitely, however, 
that a contretemps was narrowly avoided. A guest" speaker on a pro 
gram in Ford's honor luckily submitted to the Ford News Bureau a 
script in advance of presentation. It was written in the past tense and 
there was a frantic changing of verbs to make it sound less as if the 
flivver king had passed away. 

He remained a fun-loving man. It was during this tapcring-off 
period that he walked down the aisle of a church after a wedding 



THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 4 ri 

ceremony. His steps were much slower at the time, and guests made 
way for him so he could reach his car without being jostled. He seemed 
to be paying no attention to any one but he stopped to speak to a 
man and his wife who had not left their pew. The woman's face had 
been scratched by briars in her rose garden. Ford bent over and whis 
pered softly to her husband, "Now you're getting to be a man, Ed! 
Treat 'em rough! It's the only way to keep a wife in line." He straight 
ened up, unsmiling, and continued to the exit, looking neither right nor 
left. 

City rooms of Detroit newspapers' were their usual orderly mad 
house one April night last year. A state election was in progress. Old 
leads were being killed, new ones written, as late scores rolled in. A 
new voice broke in on the telephone shortly after i A.M. It said, "This 
is the Ford News Bureau. Mr. Henry Ford died at 11:45 P.M. of a 
cerebral hemorrhage. We haven't many details but will call back as 
soon as we have." A short time later the bureau began reporting the 
details on a special telephone hookup which tied up the offices of the 
three Detroit newspapers and the three national wire services. 

If Ford was right in his philosophy the saga did not really end 
in the candlelight. It will have a sequel which unfortunately will not 
be available to press associations. When William McKinley, third 
President of the United States to be assassinated, was buried in 1901, 
a friend gave Ford a small book, the work of Orlando J. Smith, Civil 
War general, Mississippi cotton planter and editor who set up and 
named William Jennings Bryan's Commoner and was first to distribute 
newspaper boiler-plate on a large scale. When Ford* finished it he had 
an answer that satisfied him as to the meaning of life. There had been 
a life before he came into this one there would be another when he 
left it. The soul was eternal. 

Man went on endlessly gathering enriching experience from one 
life to another. This one was but a short act in existence which had 
no beginning or end. He told associates he felt there was nothing in 
the world he had not seen in a previous life and also that work would 
be futile if it was impossible for man to use the experience collected 
in one life in the next. 

If he was right about the use he would make of his encyclopedic 
experiences, it is reasonably sure he is going about with his inquisitive 
eyes appraising all before him, already dissatisfied with some things he 



412 THE LAST BILLIONAIRE 

has found-, planning refinements, suggesting ways of cleaning up some 
dark corners, clocking operations to see if things where he is are one- 
two-three with the storied Rouge. 

The king is dead and there will be none like him for a time or 
ever. Apprentice critics who had not opened their eyes when his first 
car was made, have fobbed off his passing as though years before he 
had not stood at a fork in the road and turned the world's march in a 
new direction. Peasants of Russia once scheduled fetes upon arrival of 
his tractors; Pravda said only, "A correspondent of Renter's reports from 
Detroit the death of Henry Ford, well known owner of automobile 
plants." Men more constant in their affections and sounder in their per 
ceptions, wrote, when he 'died, as if an age had ended. 

He was at his zenith the world's richest man. The tax tables being 
what they are and implicitly promise to be, he was probably America's 
last billionaire. 




INDEX 



Abbeville ^aw, the, 394 

Abdul Abulbul Amir, 151 

Adams, John Quincy, 45 

Advertising, 148, 156, 202, 326 

Agriculture, Department of, 191 

Airplane company, Ford's, 202 

Algonac, Michigan, 226 

All-Judaan, 92, 93 

Allen, Fred, 14 

Altman, rug collection, 210 

Amati, an, 139 

Amazing Story of Henry Ford, The, 77 

American Hebrew, "The, 101 

Andersen, Hans Christian, 50 

Anderson, John Wendell, 68, 75 

Annie, Orphan, 320, 324 

Anti-Semitic League, The, 94 

Armstrong, Rev. J. G., 173 

Arnold, Benedict, 406, 408 

Art, Edsel Ford's interest in, 200, 21 off., 

293> 3^3 
Associated Press, the, 21, 365, 366; Chicago 

Bureau, 331 
Astors, the, 304, 357 
Astrologers' Guild of New York, 101 
Atlanta, Ga., 158 
Atlantic & Pacific, the, 365 
Atlantic City, 6 
Atterbury, 142 

Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party, 115 
Automobile Manufacturers' Association, 403 
Avery, Clarence W., 69 
Ayrshires, pedigreed, 179 

Babson, Roger W., 330 

Baldwin, Lucky, 193 

Baltimore, Greenmount Cemetery, 177 

Baltimore & Ohio, the, 142 

Bartered 'Bride, The, 121 

Bates, Finis L., ijift. 

Beatty, Clyde, 234 



Belgium, 46 

Belmont Hotel, New York, 20 

Benedictus VII, 46 

Benedictus XV, 46 

Bennett, Charles H., 68, 80, 82-86 

Bennett, Harry Herbert, 3, 69, no, in, 

140, 141, 22ofL, 229fF., 262, 385, 386, 

388, 392 

Bennett, James Gordon, I 
Bennett, Sir John, 304 
Benson, Allan, 155 
Bent, Joe, 136 
Bergonzi of 1746, the, 121 
Berlin, Germany, 95, 374 
Berlin, N. H., 125 
Bethmann-Hollweg, 42 
Bible, 149, 150; Sorensen's, 180, 181 
Bisbee, Jep, 124, 313 

Black, Fred L., 69, 150, I7iff., 219, 3201!. 
Black Bottom, the, 112 
Blanc, Francois, 343 
Blood Accusation, in Hungary, 94 
Boco Grande, 363 
Bonner, Henry, 69 
Booth, Blanche, 177 
Booth, John Wilkes, 162, I72ff. 
Borah, William E., 72 
Boston, Mass., 158 
Botsford Inn, 126 
Bowles, Charles E., 151, 154 
Bradner, Mr., 256 
Brazil, 409 
Bremen, the, 113 
Brewster, Ralph O., 125 
Brisbane, Arthur, 99, 334 
British general strike, 158 
Brooks, Harry, 127, 128 
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 135, 

394 

Brownell, Charles A., 69 
Bryan, William Jennings, 43, 44 



413 



4 i4 INDEX 

Buffalo, N, Y., 386 
Bugas, John S., 237, 238 
Bunny, John, 394 
Burbank, Luther, 187 
Burns, 5 
Burroughs, 307 

Cadillac Motor Car Co., official of, 27; 

Durant acquires, 350 
Calamity, Stephen Foster's dog, 186 
Cameron, Donald, 260 
Cameron, William John, 69, 91, g6&. t 150, 

215, 2535., 2668., 375, 404 
Campsall, Frank, 215, 247, 315 
Canadian Snowshoe Club, the, 126 
Capitalism, 280, 281 
Carrots, dinner of, 292, 293 
"Case of the Little White Slaver, The," 28 
Castings, Ford, 62; forging gives way to, 

221 

Catherine of Russia, 357 
Cellini, Benvenuto, 200 
Chalmers, Hugh, 20 

Chamber of Commerce, the National, 403 
Chamberlain, Sir Austen, 394 
Chamberlain, Neville, 158 
Charleston, the, 112 
Chase, Stuart, 352 
Cheops, 353> 354 
Chevrolet, 18, 20 5, 369 
Chicago, III, 386 
Chicago Automobile Show, 397 
Chicago Century of Progress exposition, 

299, 326 

Chicago World's Fair, 396 
Child welfare foundation, Couzens, 72 
Children's Fund of Michigan, 72 
Chorley, Kenneth, 130, 134, 135, 138 
Christian, King of Denmark, 225 
Christian Century, The, 373, 383 
Chrysler, Walter P., 370 
Chrysler Corp., 208, 222, 330, 370, 388, 390 
Cincinnati, Ohio, 102 
C. I. O., the, 376, 386, 387 
Claudius, document of, 75 
Cleopatra, 353, 354 
Clinton River, the, 336 
Cliveden, 304 
Clock House, in Upminster, paneling from, 

345 



Collier's, 376 

Collins, Mrs., 405 

Colonial Williamsburg, Va., 130 

Commerce and "Finance, 358 

Commoner, William Jennings Bryan's, 411 

Communism, 389 

Coolidge, Calvin, 97, 302 

Cooper, granddaughter of Peter, 161^ ifa 

Copenhagen, 43 

Coppin, John S., 147 

Cornaro, Luigi, 289 

Cornwall locks, the, 306 

Corrupt Practices Act, the, 403 

Cotswold Hills, cottage from, 191-193 

Courier, Buffalo, 8r 

Couzens, James, i5ff., 57, 68rT., 77, 81, 220, 

238,244,350,351 
Crap game, 130, 131 
Crawford, Captain Jack, quoted, 28 
Cremona, 116, 120, 304 
Crop control, 382 
Crowther, Samuel, 346, 382 
Curtis, Sir William, 121 

Dakar, 231 

Dallas, Texas, 386, 387 

Dancing, 103-115 

Danicll, F. Raymond, 376 

Davis, Earl J,, 99 

Davock, Captain, 127 

Dearborn, 262, 387 

Dearborn Publishing Co., 97 

Defense vs. aggression, 284 

Delavigne, Theodore L., 36$. 

Demosthenes, parchment, 75 

Denmark, 346 

Depew, Chauncey M., 58 

Derry, Dr. G. H., 322 

Detroit, Michigan, 80, 97, 132, 15 iff., 

2 1 off., 3191!. 

Detroit Academy of Surgeons, the, 242 
Detroit Community Fund, the, 403, 404 
Detroit Golf Club, 80 
Detroit Illuminating Co., 82, 405 
Detroit Institute of Arts, 210$., 320, 321 
Detroit Public Library, 381 
Detroit Symphony Orchestra, 119 
Detroit, Toledo & Jronton, the, 129$., 

341 
Dickens, Charles, 200 



INDEX 



Dillinger, John, 157, 158 

Dillman, Mrs. Hugh, 51 

Dillon, Mr., 405 

Dillon, Read & Co., 51 

Dodge, Horace E., 50, 68 

Dodge, John, 50, 57, 61, 63, 68 

Dodge Brothers, the, 50-66 

Dog, Newfoundland, Ford's, 192, 193 

Doom, 246 

Dresden, 94 

Dreyfus case, the, 94 

Duncan, Isadora, 112 

Dunham, A. Melanson, 124-126 

Dunlop, Mr.,* 395 

Dupont, wealth of, 365 

Durant, William C., 350 

Dutch, the, 47 

Edgerton, John M., 373 

Edgewater, N. J., 386 

Edison, Thomas Alva, 6, 25*?., 33, 34, 95, 
100, 124, 184, 190, 307, 308, 313, 318, 
360, 378 

Edison, Mrs. Thomas A., 357 

Edison Institute, 107, 366 

Einstein, 241 

Ekaterinburg, 120 

El Reno, 176 

Ella, Aunt, 370 

Emancipation Proclamation, the, 394 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 200, 345 

Emperor, Beethoven's, 121 

Employment, increased less than produc 
tion, 275; increased more rapidly than 
population, 279; age, 279, 280 

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 365 

Engineering Building, Detroit, 80 

England, Ford of, 13; and Jewish question, 
92; tractors for, 224; Ford's school in, 
409 

Enid, Oklahoma, 172, 175, 176 

Escanaba, 310 

Escape and Suicide of John Wilfys Booth, 
The, 171 

Essen, Villa Hugel at, 166 

Evening World, the New York, 354 

Everybody's, 19 

Fair Lane, 120, 165, 166, 345, 379 
Faraday, Michael, 401 



Federation of McGufTey Societies, 165 

Field, Marshall, 26 

Fiesole, Mino da, 211 

Firestone, Harvey S., 307, 313, 360 

Flames, perpetual, 1845. 

Flint, Michigan, 385 

Flitch-sawing, 182, 183 

Flying fortress, first American, 218 

Ford, Bacon & Davis, 132 

Ford, Benson, 200 

Ford, Edsel Bryant, 3, 4, 15, 57, 147, 151, 
156, 163, 183, 315, 345, 382, 404: and 
crap game, 130, 131; and D. T. & L, 132, 
*37> 138, 141* 142; antithesis of his 
father, 196-198, 215; his kindness, 198; 
pictures of, with father, 200; his shyness, 
200, 201; interest in art, 200, 21 off., 293, 
323; $5,000,000 loan to Detroit, 201; 
overshadowed by father, 201-205; his ill 
luck, 211, 212; threats to, 212, 213; rob 
bery, 2i3ff.; death, 216; and 400-boat 
deal, 328; chairman of school trustees, 
333> 334? refuses offers of billion, 348, 
352; wealthiest man, 356, 358; and 
Walter Reuther, 391 

Ford, Eleanor (Mrs. Edsel), 150, 156, 199, 
315 

Ford, Henry, characteristics, i, 2, 9, 163, 
219, 333 337, 339-341, 360, 403-405; 
memory, 3, 4, 59, 117, 163; his self- 
confidence, 8, 72, 73, 369, 375; trust in 
human nature mixed with suspicion, 10; 
on golf, 3-5; attitude toward money, 6, 
I3 52, 55 282, 358, 359; visitors, 6, 7, 
I48ff., 3410., 348, 349, 353; his views 
expressed, 7, 8, 266fL, 399rT.; losses were 
lessons to, 8, 182; his publicity, 9, n, 12, 
21, 144$.; his expert sense of materials, 
etc., 10; his zest for work, 10, 16, 367, 
378, 379. 396; his profits, 16, 52ff., 
273$.; minimum wage, i7ff., 373, 374; 
mass discharge rumor, 19-21; his labor 
turnover, 16, 23; campaign against smok 
ing, 25ff; his golf club, 3 off.; played 
one man against another, 36, 218; cam 
paign for peace, 356.; lawsuits, 50-66, 
97-100, 263, 336, 406-408; unpredicta 
ble, 57, 332, 345, 356; moodiness, 332, 
363, 403; his resignation from company, 
66; put blame on others, 74, 87, 333, 



416 



INDEX 



334 37* 37 2 ; campaign against Jews, 
SyfF.j 220, 376, 400; reversed his position 
on Jews, 96, IOO-TI02, 230; sideswiped, 
98, 234; takes up -dancing, 103-115; Ms 
violin collection,^ n6#.; refuses subscrip 
tion to orchestra",. 119; nightly tours of 
plant, 124; his railroad, 1296., 141-143; 
interest in individuals, 140;^ his ideas 
gained stature by his magnitude, 144; his 
red tie, 146-148; portrait of, 147; re 
pudiated own statements, i48flf.; prophe 
sies, 157, 158; and newsmen, 158-160; 
his interest in antiques, 162^., 179$., 
401, 402; birthplace, 165; his Greenfield 
Village, 183$.; his sonfT^Jl; postponed 
and deliberately spoiled experiments, 206; 
preferred mechanical brakes, 206, 208, 
209; his broadcasting station, 210; impli 
cated in robbery, 214, 215; absolutism 
of, 216, 219, 369; contract from Russia, 
224; and unions 1 , 230, 231, 324, 325, 
3696:.; disguise, 239, 240; his interest 
in Germany, 240; campaign against 
liquor, 248-251; buys newspaper, 255:8:.; 
favored an amateur, 257; against war, 
263, 282, 283; his diet, 2'88ff.; hospitali- 
zation, 291; tried tp impose own views, 
290-293; as a runner, 295, 296, 298, 303; 
seldom in his offide, 300; his humor, 
302&; his popularity, 302, 303; takes 
watch apart, 303,1304; fixes car for 
farmer, 306, 307; i lunch with Edison, 
308; unrecognised /on train, 309; myths 
about, 3i8f.; his coal mine, 337; farms 
bought by, 341; forgetfulness, 342; re 
constructs miller's house, 356-358; signs 
contract for power' plant, 359; on saving,' 
360, 402, 403; his wealth, 364-365; his 
homes, 366, 367; carried no money, 367, 
368; buys stock, Wi, 372; average age 
of employees, 38oj refuses dinner invi 
tation to meet Jklng and queen, Jj$fc 
withdraws $150^000 from bank, 349; 
changes his mind-; about a speech, 375, 
376; his politics, 2$2fF.j loved machinery, 
378, 379, 395! destroys a machine, 381; 
his death, 3g^*r.Ju; his first job, 396; 
vs. New 0fal, 4cjo; no interest in art, 
402; begging letmrs, 404; idea about 
ancient civilizatiork ,405; called history 



bunk, 405, 406; on education, 408, 409; 

his belief in life everlasting, 411 
Ford, Mrs. Henry, 42, 103$., 164, 208, 

304, 311, 314, 327, 344, 355, 362 
Ford, Henry II, 12, 14, 88, 198-200, 237, 

37i, 385 
Ford, John, 24 
Ford, Josephine, 200 
Ford, Mary (mother), 165, 394 
Ford, William (brother), 24 
Ford, William (father), 24, 25, 165, 205, 

394 

Ford, William, son of Edsel, 200 

Ford Brotherhood, 386 

Ford Motor Co., models of cars, 7, 223; 
profits, 56ff., 76, 77; original stock 
holders, 67$.; Model T car, 8 1, 206, 221, 

332, 333> 35* 35 2 39<$-399; cars a1 ' 

ways black, 147, 201, 206, 207, 332; 

* advertising, 148, 202; company houses, 

154, 155; streamlining of. cars, 202; six 

and eight cylinder cars, 207; Jewish boy 

cott of, 94, 101; buys railroad, 130$.; 

spending money for, 222; conversion to 

war work, 284!!; Durant tries to buy, 

350, 35i; price slashing, 374, 375, 398; 

union charges against, 384!?.; "dream" 

department, 392; five-cylinder motor, 

392; Model A, 401 

Ford News Bureau^He, 410, 411 

Ford Sunday Evening Hour, 123, 265, 



"Fordism," 13, 374 

Foremen's Association, the, 371 

Fortune, 221, 222, 253 

Foster, Stephen Collins, 119, 184$. 

France, 94, 231 

Frankensteen, Richard T., 220, 385 

Franklin, Irene, 125 

Free enterprise, 280 

Free Press, the Detroit, 1 1 

Frick, Henry, 357 

Friday magazine, 324 

Frost, Robert, 256 

Fry, Vernon J,, 68, 69, 80, 86 

Fuggers, the, 353 

Gabrilowitsch, Ossip, 119 

Gaekwar of Baroda, the, 353, 356, 358 

Gallagher, William Henry, 97, xox 



INDEX 



Garland, Hamlin, 165 

Garrett, Richard H., 172 

General Federation of Women's Clubs, The, 

26 
General Motors, 222, 370, 385, 388, 390, 

392 

George, David, 1725. 
Georgia, 409, 410 

German-American, Ford employee, 240 
German-American Bank of Detroit, 67 
Germans, achievements of, 240, 241 
Germany, 46, 92, 95, 374 
Germany, Ford's plant in, 13 
Gibson, Charles Dana, 352 
Girls' Protective League, 327 
Gladstone, 290 
Glaenzer, Jules, 335 
Globe, the Boston, 158 
Godde, Delphine Dodge Cromwell Baker, 

5i 

Goethals, George Washington, 71 
Golf club, Ford's, 4, 5; Rackham's, 79, 80 
Goluboff, Grischa, 123 
"Good Morning," 106 
Good Night, Ladies, 115 
Gordon, Mr., 394 
Goring, Hermann Wilhelm, 396 
Grant, Ulysses S., 406 
Gray, David, 81 
Gray, Donald, 320, 324 
Gray, John S., 67, 68, 81 
Grayholm, Santa Barbara, 81 
Great Pyramid, the, 353 
Greenfield Village, 164, 1836% 409 
Greese, Joseph, 328 
Grey, Sir Edward, 42 
Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore, 177 
Griffin, Beatrice, 119, 120 
Grimm, Jacob, 394 
Grosse He, 230 
Guadagnini, 121 
Guarnerius, Ford's, 120, 122 
Guarnerius del Jesu, Joseph, 120 
Guinness, Ruppert, 356, 358 
Gunning, Vaughnley, 126, 127 

Haiti, 397 
Halifax, Lord, 355 
Hall, Lovett, 107 
Hamilton, Duke of, 210 



Planks, Nancy, 193 

Harding, Warren, 100, 307, 355 

Harkness, Edward S. and Ann, 353 

Harper, Mrs, J. E., 175, 177 

Harper's Weekly, in 

Hartford, John, 365 

Hartman, Hubert, 69 

Hartner, Charles, 69 

Hawkins, Norval, 69 

Hayes, Helen, 314 

He-Be- Jody, the, 305 

Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 102 

Hellzapoppiri ', 314 

Henry Ford an Interpretation, 381 

Henry Ford Both Sides of Him, 382 

Henry Ford Hospital, 2, 21, 32, 33, 98, 

24ir?., 288, 338 
Herald, New York, i 
Herodotus, 353 
Hickam Field, 358 
Higgins, Rev. Dr., 321-323 
Highland Park, 29, 58, 397 
Hill, Edwin C., 360 
Hill, Percival S., 27, 28 
Hippodrome, the New York, 125 
Hitler, Adolf, 396 
Holland, 47 

Home, Sweet Home, 121 
Hoover, Herbert, 33, 184, 269, 374 
Hornblower & Weeks, 351 
Horse, wooden, 235 
Hough, E. C., 85 
Howe, David, 166 
Hubbard, Elbert, 252 
Hungary, 94 
Huron Mountain Lodge, 344 

Icaro, Sorensen's, 227 

Illinois courthouse, 189 

Independence Hall, Ford's reproduction of, 

162 
Independent, Dearborn, 88, 93, 97fl, 151, 

152, 241, 264 
Industry, mechanism for sharing wealth, 

273 

Insurance, Unemployment, 270 
International Jew, the, 87$. 
International Jew, The, 99 
Island Pond, 125 
Italy, proprietor of linen shop in, 8, 9 



418 



INDEX 



Jackson, Stonewall, 394 
Jackson, William Henry, 297, 298 
Jefferson, Thomas, 45, 366 
Jenks, C. C., 78 

"Jewish Exploitation o Farmer Organiza 
tions," 97 

Jews, Henry Ford and, 87$., 230, 376 
Jiggs, 320, 366 
Johl, Francis, 190, 191 
Johnson, Andrew, 174 
Johnson, General Hugh, 271, 383 
Jolson, Al, 404 
Jordan, David Starr, 40 
Jordan, Sarah, 183 

Journal of Commerce, the New York, 15 
Journal of Neglected Truth, the, 2561!. 
Judge, 352 
"Judith with the Head of Holofernes," 293 

Kahn, Albert, 257, 258, 345, 346 

Kansas City, 386, 387 

Kanzler, Ernest R., 69 

Keller, Helen, 47 

Kendall, Messmore, 335 

Kenmore, Virginia, 305 

Kentucky Home, 188 

Kettering, Charles F., 289 

Khan III, Aga, 356, 358, 360, 365 

Khan, Sir Mis Osman AH, 358 

Kilgallen, James L, 377 

King, Charles B., 20, 410 

King Motor, 20 

Klare, H. William, 292 

Klingensmith, Frank L., 69, 310, 311 

Knights of Columbus, the, 152, 153 

Knudsen, William ,S., 69, 203, 222, 295, 

372 

Kolar, Victor, 123 
Kort, Henry, reported in Poland to be 

Henry Ford, 325 
Kreisler, Fritz, 119 
Krupps, Villa Hugel of, 166 
Ku Klux Klan, the, 15 iff. 
Kurstall, the, 77 

Labor Day parade, 1937, 3 

Lacey, Arthur f., 79 

Lafayette, 181 

Lake, 395 

Lake St. Clair, 212, 230 



Lamiere, Sam, 190 
Landon, Alfred, 23; 
Lang, Anton, 363, 364 
Larkin Soap Co., 27 
Le Mare, Chester A., 233, 234 
League o Nations, 374 
League to Enforce Peace, 44 
Lee, Ivy, 259 
Lee, John R., 69 
Lelands, the, 69 
Lewinsohn, Richard, 356 
Liberty Legion of America, The, 386 
Liebold, Ernest G., 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 69, 
99, 142, 143, 220, 2s8ff., 295, 296, 33&> 

339 

Life, Gibson's, 352 
Lincoln, Abraham, 171$., 182, 184, 189, 

190 

Lincoln Motor Car Co., 208 
Lindbergh, Col. Charles, 392 
Lindbergh, Mrs. (mother of Charles), 128 
Lindin, Carl C. E., 147 
Lochner, Louis P,, 40, 42 
Lowenstein, Alfred, 353 
Logan, Dr. James, 44, 45 
Logan Act, the, 44, 45 
Logan County courthouse, 184 
Long Beach, California, 386 
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 164, 166", 

167, 183, 394 
Louis II, Prince, 342!!. 
Louis-Dreyfus, Louis, 356, 360 
Lovett, Benjamin B., 104$. 
Lucking, Alfred P., 56, 62, 69 
Lyveden Hall, staircase from, 345 

Machine, power of, 277-279 

Mack, Connie, 27 

Majestic, the, 113 

Malcolmson, Alex Y., 61, 68, 75, 81-84 

Malcolmson-Ford Co., Ltd., 75 

Manning, John C., 4, 5 

Manning, Shearman Leroy, 218, 219 

Marconi, Guglielmo, 396 

Marie, Queen of Rumania, 344 

Marquis, Dean Samuel S., 10, 47, 69, 228, 

338, 3*1 

Marshall, Louis P., 99 
Martin, Pete, 18, 69, 256, 257 
Mary, and lamb, 162, 163, x<58rf., 365 



INDEX 



419 



Masons, the, 152, 153; British stone, 191, 

192 

Maud Powell, the, 121 
Maugham, Somerset, 335 
Maxim, Hudson, 26 

Mayo, William B., 69, 197, 228, 359, 360 
McCager, A., 177 

McCormick, Kenneth F., 294, 295, 365 
McCormick, Mrs. Kenneth F., 294, 295 
McGuffey, William Holmes, 164, 165, 366 
McKinley, William, 411 
McLean, Walter, 362 
"Medea," 75 
Medicis, the, 353 
Mellon, Andrew, 73, 356, 365 
Mellon, Richard B., 353 
Menlo Park, 190 
Mexico, Rivera in, 323 
Miami University, 165 
Michigan, 367; native farmer, 307 
Michigan Central, the, 142 
Michigan State College, 80 
Michigan Supreme Court, the, 65 
Miles, Mr., an actor, 189 
Miller Road, 220, 221 
Minimum-wage, Ford's, iifl, 27, 373, 

374 

Mitsui, Baron H., 353 
Mize, Mr., of the Giants, 27 
"Moana," 75 
Moby Dic^ 235 
Monaco, Prince of, 342fl. 
Money Mu$\, 139 
Monte Carlo, 343 
Montreal, Canada, 126 
Morgan, J. Pierpont, 117, 357, 408 
Morgan, Col. John, 394 
Morgan, House of, 351 
Moselle, the, 397 

Mount Clemens, Michigan, 336 ^ 
Munchow, Gus, 193 
"Murder," game of, 156 
Murray, Philip, 388 
Muscle Shoals, 95 
Museum, Ford's, 177 
My Life and Works, Ford's, 49, 382 

Nagel, William, 201 

National Labor Relations Board, the, 377, 
385*!.; election, 370, 3886:. 



Neutral Conference for Continuous Media 
tion, 44 

New Deal, the, 376, 382, 383 

New York, Henry Ford in, 20; Rivera in, 
323, 324 

New York Central Railroad, 132 

New Yorker, The, 200 

Newberry, Truman H., 96, 403 

Newport, 357 

News, Detroit, 233, 253 

Nilsson, Walter, 314, 315 

Nizam of Hyderabad, 360, 364-366 

NRA, the, 271, 382, 383 

Oakland car, the, 350 
Oberammergau, 363 
Old Blac\ Joe, 188 
Old Folks at Home, 187 
Old South Church, Boston, 169 
Olds, Ransom E., 350 
Olds car, the, 350 
Olson and Johnson, 314 
Oppenheim, E. Phillips, 391 
Orchid, named in honor of Ford, 20 
Osborn, Frederick, 130, 132 
Oscar II, the, 35*!., 89 

Palma, Joseph A., 99 

Panama Canal, the, 71 

Patents, 400$. 

Patino, Simon I., 353, 356, 358, 360, 365 

Peace ship, Ford's, 35fT., 89 

Pearson, Drew, 296 

Pelletier, LeRoy, 69 

Pennsylvania, and Logan Act, 44, 45 

Pennsylvania Railroad, 132, 142, 191 

People's Museum Association, 321 

Perlman, Nathan D., 99 

Perry, Sir Percival, 152, 344, 345 

Pierrot, George F., 322, 323 

Pinehurst, 80 

Pipp, Edwin G., 91, 96, 255, 381, 382 

Plutarch, 353 

Plymouth, Michigan, 82-86 

Plymouth car, 206 

Plymouth Iron Wind-Mill Co., 85 

Poland, report of Henry Ford's origin in, 

325, 326 

Port St. Louis, 231 
Post, the Boston, 125 



420 INDEX 



Pravda, 412 

Prentiss, John W., 35iF. 
Profit sharing, nE. 9 272*1*. 
Protocols of Zion, 91 

Rackham, Horace H., 68, 77#. 

Rackham, Mamie, 77, 78 

Rackham School of Graduate Studies, 

80 

Radio, Ford hour, 265, 266E. 
Ramcses III, 353, 354 
Red Horse Tavern, the, 166 
Redstone Hill, Mass., 171 
Reed, James M., 97 

Reese, Sailor, see Bennett, Harry Herbert 
Rejane, Madame, 357 
Restorations, Ford's, 1628. 
Reuther, Walter, 14, 220, 385, 391, 392 
Review of Reviews, the, 95 
Rice, Grantland, 27 
Ripple, the, 104 

Ritz Carlton Hotel, New York, 375 
Rivera, Diego, 210, 3i9fL 
Robbery, of Edsel Ford's home, 213$. 
Robinson, Bill, in 
Rockefeller, Jr., John D., 319, 320, 352, 

356 357, 365 

Rockefeller Center, 323, 324 
Roentgen, 395 
Rolls-Royce, 355; Ford's contract, 203, 

204; with patented top, 335 
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 23, 267, 268, 270, 

355, 3 82ft 

Roosevelt, Theodore, 33, 44, 58, 182 
Roper, Daniel C., 77 
Ross, Alex Y., 80 

Rothschild, Baron Edward G., 356, 358 
Rouen, 364 
Rouge plant, 3, 29, 37, 58, 180, 220, 231, 

232$., 262, 268, 284, 324, 325, 370, 

387-389* 39^, 397 
Roulstone, John, 168 
Rug, stolen from Ford museum, 211 
Ruskin, John, 26 

Russia, 92, 94, 224, 345~347 374 
Russo, Mr., 6 
Ruth, Babe, x8 

St Helen, John, 173$. 
St. Louis, Mo., 386 



St. Paul, 331 
St. Peter, 364 
Sanborn, Fred, 125 
Sandburg, 256 

Sapiro, Aaron, 97, 98, 100, 263 
Sarre collection, bronze from, 210 
School, trade, 409 

Schoolhouse, Sterling, Mass., 162, 168 
Schwab, Charles M., 217 
Schwimmer, Mme. Rosika, 39ff., 88, 80, 
Scribner's, 360 

Securities and Exchange Commission, 365 
^geldcnpatent case, 18^3.5.1 
Sheba, l^ueen of, 353 
Sheldrick, Laurence P., 69 
Shepherd of Hermes, 75 
Sherman, General, 406 
Sialia, 295, 301, 306, 361, 362 
Sicilian Anarchists* Association, 212 
Sloan, Alfred P., 370 
Smith, A. M., 4 
Smith, C. Aubrey, 394 
Smith, John W., 15 iff. 
Smith, Orlando J., 411 
Smoking, Ford's campaign against, 25$., 

298 

Sociological department, Ford's, 10, 22 
Solomon, 353, 354 
Somerville, Mass., 386 
Soochow, 394 
Sorensen, Charles E., 3, 16, 17, 31, 69, 

180, 202, 203, 22ofT., 310, 311 
South Paris, 125 

Soybeans, 298, 299; dinner of, 299, 300 
Sparr, Madame, 394 
Spies, 391 

Spitalfields, panel from, 345 
Stainer, Jacob, 121 

Stamp, in honor of Thomas Edison, 6 
Star, a myth about, 326, 327 
State Department, the, 43, 44 
Sterling, Mass., 168, 169 
Stevenson, Elliott G., 5 iff. 
Stone, Warren S., 135 
Stotesbury, Edward T., 305 
Stout, William B., 69 
Stradivari, Ford's, xx6&, 303 
Street, Julian, 7 
Strelow, Albert, 68, 82, 86 
Strikes, lost days from, 281 



INDEX 



421 



Sudbury, Mass., 166, 409 
Sullivan, John L., 126 
Sunday, Billy, 409, 410 
Suwanee, Ford's, 187 
Sweinhart, James, 233, 379 

Taft, William Howard, 44, 182 

Ides of a Wayside Inn, 167, 394 

Talleyrand, 45 

Talmud, The, 91 

Tarsney, 256 

Tavern, restored by Ford, 4 

Tennyson, 200 

Thackeray, William Makepeace, 394 

Thibaud, Jacques, pupil of, 123 

Thyssen, Fritz, 356 

Till We Meet Again, 125 

Time, 388 

Times, the London, 44 

Times, the New York, 12, 44, 47, 95, 154, 

352, 365* 376, 394 
Titian, Ford's interest in, 293, 294 
Titusville, Florida, 128 
Tourte, Francine, 121 
Tray, Stephen Foster's dog, 186, 187 
Tribune, the Chicago, 28, 171, 336, 406- 

408 

Turkey in the Straw, 121 
Tyler, Mrs. Christopher (nee Sawyer), 168 

Underworld, the, 232$. 

Unemployment, 270, 275 

Unions, labor, 3, 14, 369$. 

United Automobile Workers, 220, 221, 230, 

23 1 324 385 392 

United Jewish Appeal, 88 

United States Junior Chamber of Com 
merce, 14 

United States Supreme Court, the, 386 

University of Michigan, 75, 80 

Valentiner, Dr. William H., 210 
Vanderbilts, the, 357 
Vanderbilt, William K., 357 
Varsovienne, the, no, in 
Vatican, the, 46 
Victoria Regina, 314 
Villa Hugel, 166 
Villard, Oswald Garrison, 113 
Viviani, Rene*, 42 



Volstead Act, Ford's backing of, 248 
Vu, Paris, 356 

Wagner Act, the, 262, 382, 389 

Waldorf Hotel, New York, 375 

Wales, Prince of, see Windsor, Duke of. 

Walker, Thomas B., 353 

Wall Street, 153, 154, 5506*., 382, 392 

Walpole, Hugh, 256 

Wanamaker, John, 26 

Wars, Ford blames financiers, 9oE., 153, 

158, 399; liquor as cause of, 248 
War Department, 225; experimental 

bomber for, 218, 219 
Waring, Fred, 315 
Warm Springs Foundation, 80 
Washington, Betty, 305 
Washington, George, 45, 305 
Washington, D. C., 389 
Watson, Thomas J., 147 
Wave, the Enid, 177 
Wayne County Medical Society, the, 242 
Wayside Inn, 4, 5, i64ff., 179 
Wealth, lists of world's holders of, 356, 

358, 360, 365 
Webb, Frank D., 375 
Webb, Stuart W., 352 
Webster, Noah, 187 
Welch, Marion Foster, 185, 186 
Welliver, Judson C., 95 
Welsbach, 395 

Wendell, Georges de, 356, 360 
Westinghouse Air Brake, 373 
Westminster, Duke of, 353, 356, 358, 

365 

West Virginia, coal properties in, 337 
Whistler, 400 
White Marsh, 305 
Whitney, Payne, 353 
Who's Who, 12 
Wibel, A. M., 69 
Widman, Michael F., Jr., 388 
Wilcox, Clarence E., 76 
Wilhelm, ex-Kaiser, 246, 356, 358 
Williams, Ted, 27 
Williamsburg, Colonial, 130, 183 
Willow Run, 9, 216, 220, 224, 282, 391 
Wills, C. Harold, 57> 63-65, 69, 35 1 
Wilson, Mrs. Alfred, 51 
Wilson, Mrs. Horace Dodge, 357 



422 INDEX 

Wilson, Woodrow, 18, 42, 96, 330 Wurlitzer, Hudolph, 117 

Windsor, Duke of, 201, 315, 316, 355 WWI, 210 

Winter Garden, New York, 303, 314 

Wood, Charles W., 576 Yachtsmen's Association of America, 227 

Wood, Henry A. Wise, 407 Yonker, Ralph L., $6&. 

Woodall, C. J., 69 

World War II, 30, 246, 247 Zaharoff, Sir Basil, 353, 356, 358 

WPA, the, 271 Zumstein, Dr. Frederick E., 67 




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